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OKRA standards for UK

Trade intelligence reveals that most okra produced in Africa is exported to the
UK and Netherlands which constitute the two largest markets within the EU.
Okra known in some circles as “lady finger” are available in varying lengths
and colours. Its stems and leaves, are swathed in sharp hairy spines. Some
varieties are bereft of hairs. It is primarily a food ingredient consumed not
only by Diaspora Africans, Carribeans and Asian communities but also
Americans, Caucasians as a component part of stews, soup, gumbos etc. The
ripe seeds, are roasted and ground into a coffee substitute and often find
expression in herbal concoctions that relieve swellings and inflammation.

A survey conducted not too long ago by the Federation of Nigerian Exporters
revealed that most suppliers to the UK market were from Kenya, Thailand,
Ghana, Uganda, India, Jordan, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Gambia,
Mexico et al. Like most product sectors where we have comparative
advantages, Nigeria’s trade presence is literally nil. Wholesale price of Okra
stands at $ 4,000/ metric tonnes CIF (Cost Insurance & Freight) but when the
markets get bullish; it shoots up to $ 5,000 - $ 5,600 metric tonnes CIF.

In the United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Italy; the

market potentials are enormous. A particular supermarket in Liverpool, UK
dispatches Okra to clients in Switzerland. The market out there is a dictator of
some sorts that brooks no variation from set standards. Okra for shipment
should be bright green, firm and free of blemishes, insect and mechanical
damage. Very young and fully developed pods are of poor flavour. Regardless
of the length, okra that is dull, flaccid and yellowish is inferior, mainly due to
high flare content. Okra products should be selected - 4 to 9 cm in length (1.5"
to 3.5"), green, and tender and readily snap at the tip.
Okra is highly perishable but with optimum post-harvest handling systems,
quality is maintained for four to seven days. Due to the crop size requirements
and the rapid rate of growth and development, okra should be harvested
every one to two days to ensure the size specification range. It should not be
harvested in the rain or when excessively wet, and should be handled with
care; rubber gloves should be used during harvesting and handling. On
harvesting approximately 1 cm of stem should remain attached to the pod.
Oversize and damage crops are to be removed. Sacks or bags are not to be
used as these incur damage and cause heat build up. During transport from
field to the pack house, the crates should be covered from the elements, but
have sufficient ventilation to prevent heat build-up. Due to the perishable
nature of okra, harvesting is required on the day, or the day preceding

Removal of pods which show discolouration, bruising, blackening of the ridges

or insect damage, is required during the grading procedures. All pods meeting
the size specifications can be loose packed into cartons (size grading into
individual size is not required). Okras is graded by hand or moving conveyors
or standard grading table. Net weights are dependent on the importers
requirements vary from 3.5 to 4.5 kg (8 to 10 Ibs).

The usual packing is 4-5 kg cartons with ventilation holes to prevent

overheating, because okra exhibits exceedingly high rates of respirations,
which generate immense production of heat and subsequent deterioration. It
must be stated that a suitable cooling ambience of 10 oC to 12 oC is a sine qua
non after packing the okra for airliftment. The maximum storage period prior
to shipment should not exceed 36 hours otherwise blackening of the pod
results. Storage with other fruits and vegetables which produce ethylene
should be avoided. However before freighting consignments, it is needful that
every potential exporter familiarized himself with the UK food and standards
that came into force recently.
OKRA Standards for US

Scientific Name and Introduction: Okra [Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) Moench],

also known as Hibiscus esculentus L. is a member of the mallow (Malvaceae)
family and can be found as an annual (primarily the U.S.) or as a perennial in India
and Africa (Lamont, 1999). In the U.S., Mexico and Japan, the young fruiting pods
are the edible portion, while young leaves and mature seeds may be consumed in
other countries (Duzyaman, 1997). In the U.S., most fresh market okra is from
California and the southern U.S. and Mexico. ‘Clemson Spineless’ is the most well-
known fresh market cultivar, while low mucilage, low fiber, high chlorophyll
content types such as ‘Emerald’ and ‘Louisiana Green Velvet’ are grown for
processing. A few fresh market hybrids, ‘Annie Oakley’, ‘North and South’ and
‘Cajun Delight’ are now available. Most okra cultivars produce green pods, but a
few varieties produce yellow (‘Blondy’) or dark red pods (‘Burgundy’). Usually,
pods have 4 to 10 distinct ribs or ridges (‘Emerald’ is completely round, with no
ribs). Pods are prized for their unique flavor and high mucilaginous content (use
as a thickening agent). Other names include quingumbo, bhendi, bhindi, gumbo,
gombo, quaio, and lady’s finger.

Quality Characteristics and Criteria: High quality pods are 5 to 15 cm (2 to 6 in)

long, flexible, bright-green and turgid. Seeds should not be protruding through
the epidermis, and ridges should be free of blackening and bruising.

Horticultural Maturity Indices: Okra pods are harvested when immature and high
in mucilage, but before becoming highly fibrous; generally within 2 to 6 weeks
after flowering.

Grades, Sizes and Packaging: Okra is graded by size and absence of defects,
decay, insects and dirt, shape, and tenderness. Fancy pods are < 9 cm (3.5 in);
Choice 9 to 11 cm (3.5 to 4.25 in); and Jumbo > 11 cm (4.25 in). Fresh okra is most
commonly presented in 0.45 kg (l lb) clamshell boxes or as bulk weight or volume-
filled 11.4 kg (25 lb) bins.

Pre-cooling Conditions: Okra should be marketed within 36 h of harvest and

shipped under refrigeration. Storage in unventilated containers without
refrigeration can cause degradation of color. Some growers use hydro-cooling or
forced-air cooling.

Optimum Storage Conditions: Okra pods lose weight readily and are chilling-
sensitive. Pods can be stored for 7 to 14 days at 7 to 10 °C (45 to 50 °F) with > 90%

Controlled Atmosphere (CA) Considerations: There is a slight benefit from

storage at 7 to 12 °C (44.6 to 53.6 °F) in air with 4 to 10% CO2 (Saltveit, 1997).
Other combinations have also shown some benefit, including 5 to 10% CO2 at 5 to
8 °C (41 to 46 °F) and 3 to 5% O2 + 0% CO2 (Baxter and Waters, 1986). Levels of
CO2 > 20% can cause off-flavors.

Retail Outlet Display Conditions: Keep dry, refrigerate and humidify.

Chilling Sensitivity: Okra pods are highly sensitive to chilling, especially very
young (more mucilaginous) pods. As little as 2 days at 2 °C (35.6 °F) can cause
chilling injury. Chilling injury shows up within 24 h at 20 °C (68 °F) after pods are
held 7 days at 2 or 5 °C (35.6 to 68 °F). Symptoms can be expressed as water-
soaked or exuding lesions, appearance of mold or mildew, especially if held at 5
°C (41 °F) (Perkins-Veazie and Collins, 1992). Green pods turn a brown-olive green,
yellow varieties turn brown, and burgundy varieties become a dull brown-red.

Physiological Disorders: Pods are susceptible to chilling injury, yellowing, shrivel

from weight loss, warty pods (nitrogen deficiency).

Postharvest Pathology: Chladosporium, gray mold (Botrytis cinerea), mildew,

yeasts, Rhizopus stolonifer, Rhizoctonia solani, Psuedomonas pv syringae
(Snowdon, 1992).

Quarantine Issues: None known.

Suitability as Fresh-cut Product: Unknown.
Special Considerations: The ridges on okra pods damage easily.
Thailand Standards for OKRA exports


This standard applies to commercial varieties of okra grown from Abelmoschus esculentus L.
Moench of the Malvaceae family to be supplied fresh to the consumer, after preparation and
packaging. Okra for processing is excluded.



2.1.1 In all classes, subject to the special provisions for each class and the tolerances allowed, the
okra must be : fresh, green in color, whole with the characteristics of the variety ; peduncle intact ; free of distinct signs of bruising and scratches or of condition unfit for consumption ; clean, practically free of any visible foreign matter ; practically free of pests affecting the general appearance of the produce ; practically free of damage caused by pests ; the peduncle cut surface must be smooth and clean ; free of any smell foreign taste. free of abnormal external moisture ,excluding condensation following removal from cold

2.1.2 The okra must be correctly harvested, postharvest handled, stored and transported in order to
obtain proper size and quality and to arrive in satisfactory condition at the place of destination.


Okra is classified in three classes defined below :

2.2.1 “Extra” class

Okra in this class must be of superior quality, the pod is straight with uniform green color
throughout. The intact peduncle is not longer than 1.0 cm. The pod skin is free of defects with the
exception of very slight superficial defects provided these do not affect the general appearance of the
produce, the quality, the keeping quality and presentation in the package.
2.2.2 Class I
Okra in this class must be of good quality, the pod is straight or slightly curved with uniform green
color. The pod may have slight skin defects, provided that these do not affect the quality, the keeping
quality, the packaging and the presentation in the package.
2.2.3 Class II
The class includes okra which does not qualify for inclusion in the higher classes but satisfies the
minimum requirement specified in section 2.1 above.


Size is determined by the pod length is classified into 3 size Pod Length Excluding Peduncle
codes as in the following table: Size Code (cm.)
1 > 12-14
2 > 10-12
3 ≤ 10

Export Standards for Okra (As per Tamilladu

Agriculture University)
Export standards for Vegetables

Commodity Parameters for Export

3-5 inch length, green tender,
packing 5 Kg
12 inch length, greenish
Bottle Gourd
tender, straight, packing 5 Kg
5-6 inch length, green tender,
straight, packing 5 Kg
3-4 Inch length, green,
Green Chilli
packing 5 Kg
24 Inch length, straight, thick,
Drum Sticks
packing 5 Kg
20-25 mm, green, packing 5
Lime Kg gunny bags, 20 Kg
wooden boxes.
Mode of Transport By Air or By Sea