Jember is a major producer of edamame for exports.
EDAMAME is nearly always served at parties at Jember University. "And almost always the soybeans are gobbled up," said Jember University public relations and protocol chief Rohani. The Japanese edamame, or soybean, is green in color and has a crunchy texture. Edamame is usually served steam and lightly sprinkled with salt.
The soybean that is typically grown in Japan is now being grown locally. Rich in protein, fat, fiber and antioxidants, it is grown in Jember, East Java. Sigit Hendrawan Samsu, a businessman and member of the Jember University board of trustees is one of the pioneers behind the development of a local variety from seeds, which were imported from Japan in 1992.
Edamame is grown under the management of PT Mitratani Dua Tujuh at Mangli village in Jember. Edamame produced by Mitratani, a subsidiary of PT Perkebunan Nusantara X, is largely exported to Japan. Sigit said it was not easy to sell the soybean in Japan, where it originates from. Only after a series of tests was edamame from Jember accepted by the Japanese consumer.
The first samples presented at a meeting with Japanese importers in 1993 were a failure. Dozens of the green peas in the samples were found to be contaminated by worms. Sigit said he was devastated. "If I were to follow the Japanese tradition I would have committed hara-kiri [commit suicide]," Sigit was quoted as saying in his book Membangun Agroindustri Bernuansa Ekspor. Luckily the Japanese gave Sigit a second chance. Only during the fifth series of tests did the quality of edamame from Jember satisfy the Japanese. Exports, which began in mid-1990s, rose from a few hundred tons to more than 4,000 tons last year.
Mitratani director Hery Budiarto told Jember district council in mid-May that production would be pushed to 6,500 tons a year. "There will also be an increase in acreage from the present 850 hectares to 1,000 hectares," said Hery.
Edamame is grown in several districts, including Ajung, Sumbersari, Jenggawah, Mumbulsari, Rambipuji, Bangsalsari, and Tanggul. About 90 percent of production is destined for exports to Japan. The Japanese market is wide open. Demand for edamame in Japan, which topped 100,000 tons in 2005 continues to grow.
Today the Japanese market is still dominated by China and Taiwan, which supplied more than half the demand. In an interview with Tempo before his death end of last May, Henri said that Jember, with a potential acreage of 10,000 hectares for edamame farming, was ideally located 64-86 metes above sea level. Mitratani, originally collaborating with thousands of local farmers growing edamame, has since 2008 terminated such partnership as Japanese consumers complained of chemical residue in edamame grown by the farmers.
Termination of the collaboration is not a problem for the farmers. A new arrangement has been struck, in which the farmers were paid Rp6-7 million per hectare of their land leased by Mitratani for one period of planting. Bahri, 50, a farmer at Kecamatan Sumbersari, said each planting period lasted not more than 70 days. "At the end of the period we can work and grow anything on the plots we want to," he said. Last year Mitratani succeeded in developing edamame seeds of a local variety. It is now trying to obtain a patent on the variety. According to Suyono, Dean of the Faculty of Pedology at Jember University, who was involved in the development of the variety, it would take five to ten years to obtain the patent.
By Yudono Y. Akhamdi, Mahbub Djunaidy (Jember)
No. 44/12, June 26, 2012
Edamame harvest in Sukoreno village, Jember, East Java.