To feed this growing population, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that a qualitative increase in production combined to a decrease in food waste and losses must be attained. To achieve this, diversifying agricultural production systems by promoting underutilized tropical species offers opportunities to strengthen the adaptation, mitigation and resilience of both natural and socio-economic systems.

Indigenous vegetables, which are largely underutilized, are essential sources of dietary components, including minerals and vitamins necessary for maintaining human health and strengthening resistance to disease and infection.

Okra (Abelmoschus spp.), an important vegetable crop, native to Africa, is grown in tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate climates in different countries from Africa to Asia, Southern Europe, and America. It is commercially grown in India, Turkey, Iran, West Africa, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan, West Bengal, Burma, Japan, Malaysia, Brazil, Ethiopia, Cyprus, and the southern USA. The global okra production is estimated to be around 9.96 million tonnes, with India takes the lead at 6.18 million tonnes followed by Nigeria at 1.82 million tonnes in a year.

Okra has wide culinary uses across the different regions as a result of its good palatability properties. Its immature, fresh, green seed pods are eaten as vegetable, while the extract obtained from the fruit is used in different recipes thickening stews, soup, and sauces to increase their consistency.

As a multipurpose crop due to the varied use of its leaves, buds, flowers, pods, stems, and seeds, it functions as an antioxidant through the presence of densely packed bioactive components including flavonoids, polysaccharides and vitamins
Okra has long been used as a vegetable and a source of dietary medicine since it represents a source of nutrient that is important to human health and industrial applications. As a multipurpose crop due to the varied use of its leaves, buds, flowers, pods, stems, and seeds, it functions as an antioxidant through the presence of densely packed bioactive components including flavonoids, polysaccharides and vitamins.
Plants with medicinal values play a significant role globally especially in the management and treatment of various chronic diseases.

The beneficial effects associated to okra and their components are cardio-protective, renal protective, neuro-protective, anticancer, analgesic, antiulcer, antibacterial, and anti-fatigue. Taking a critical look at diabetes, which is a chronic health disease attributed to risk factors like obesity, physical inactivity, ageing, and genetic predisposition. In particular, diabetes mellitus is a progressive metabolic disease and it has affected a considerable percentage of the population throughout the world, associating with considerable morbidity and mortality. This chronic health disease has been scientifically said to be managed with the use of okra in lowering the blood glucose level, inhibiting cholesterol absorption and subsequently decreasing the level of lipid and fat in the blood.

Aside from the health benefits, other food applications include the use of okra gum in cake batter and gluten-free rice flour tortillas, okra mucilage for biofilms in the pharmaceutical industry while a non-food application is found in the form of fiber extracted from the waste stem of the okra plant. This fiber can be used for making different utility products to fulfill daily needs, including but not limited to ropes, paper, cleaning brushes, and painting brushes.

Hybrid seeds
Okra is gaining popularity among health-conscious clients due to its many health benefits. However, there is a growing demand for hybrid seeds, urged by a decreasing supply of total arable area collective[dit weet ik niet wat het is] combined with an intensification in crop losses.

Although the Okra market is anticipated to reach USD 380 million by 2030, registering a cumulative annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11% for hybrid and 3.4% for organic during the 2022-2030 period, there exist some limitations, including the perishable nature of the crop which affects the appearance and taste, the seasonal availability as production and supply fluctuates across the year, limited processing options as consumers make higher demand on fresh fruits and consumer preference between hybrids and indigenous varieties.

To take advantage of the full potential benefits and economic value of okra, some key recommendations are:
  • Promote training and technical support for farmers
  • Backup research to develop improved varieties for increased productivity
  • Enhance consumer awareness on health and nutrition consciousness
  • Deliver incentives to set-up irrigation system
  • Explore possibilities in value addition
  • Ensure government policies promote ease of doing business.