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Growing vegetables in developing countries for local urban populations and export markets: problems confronting small-scale producers

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Vegetables attract high applications of pesticides, and farmers in developing countries use many acutely toxic insecticides to control pests on these crops. With the liberalisation of agricultural markets in developing countries, the number of small-scale farmers growing vegetables for both domestic and export markets is increasing. Demand for supplies of year-round and exotic fruit and vegetables has grown in industrialised countries, but with rising quality standards and traceability requirements it is difficult for small-scale farmers to benefit from this lucrative non-traditional agricultural export trade. The demand is high for vegetables in the expanding cities in developing countries, and farmers in peri-urban areas, or rural areas with good access to the cities, are in a position to find a growing market for their produce. Poor storage facilities will often mean that farmers are forced to sell at peak times when prices are low. Farmers rarely have access to training in pesticide use, and have only limited or no access to advice on the complicated management of pesticides. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN is concerned about high levels of poor quality and adulterated pesticides on sale in developing countries. Surveys repeatedly show that without training, farmers are unable to make good crop decisions: recognition of pests and their predators is generally low, leading to decisions to spray to kill any insect; knowledge of product selection, application rates and timing is poor; different products are often combined in the belief that the effect will be greater; re-entry periods after spraying and essential harvest intervals are not known; and without knowledge of alternatives, farmers will often assume that the only solution to pest problems is to spray more frequently. From a consumer's point of view, few developing countries are able to monitor pesticide residues, particularly for produce grown for home consumption: most countries do not have laboratories for even simple residue testing. Changes in European Maximum Residue Limits means that export crops will be rejected if they contain residues at the Limit of Detection of pesticides not registered in Europe. Season-long field level training in Integrated Pest Management can help farmers to become better decision-makers, and to greatly reduce pesticide use while reducing risks to their own health and environment, producing safer products for consumers, maintaining yields, and increasing incomes. Copyright © 2003 Society of Chemical Industry
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Keywords: IPM; developing countries; export crops; pesticides; vegetable production

Document Type: Research Article

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Publication date: May 1, 2003

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