BY DR. NIMROD
|I have just completed a professional trip to Senegal, during which I encountered a problem common to most mango exporters (and other crops) in the world.
I wish to share it with you because I believe there is a lesson to be learned, which any fresh produce exporter can benefit from understanding and implementing.
It all started when I asked a farmer, who is a professional mango grower and exporter, a simple question – “What is your dream?“
(Think for a moment, what would you answer?)
Instead of the usual, answer, I expected, like; ‘I dream of exporting more for a higher price,’ this farmer answered –
“I dream that all farmers will have an effective solution for fruit fly control,” and then he added, “and especially I wish it for the smallholders“.
I wish to be VERY clear, I asked him what he dreams for himself, and he tells me that he wants all the farmers to have a solution for fruit flies, and especially the smallholders!
For a moment, I was confused. What’s going on here, have I met a farmer who has political dreams or is he a saint?
I like his answer very much, and I wish all farmers were able to export, it is my dream too!
I am sure that the government and the leaders of Senegal hope the same. After all, they invest a lot in trying to accomplish exactly that.
But why would a professional, successful mango grower, who is exporting most of his fruits to Europe care about all farmers, with a special emphasis on smallholders?
|To understand his answer, let us analyze the situation from his point of view, maybe we can understand and learn something new.
For this purpose, we will compare the farmer’s ‘Current Status‘ to his ‘Dream Status.’
THE CURRENT STATUS
Today, any Senegalese mango grower, interested in exporting to Europe, can export provided he complies with the Mango Export Protocol.
Export Protocol – due to the high sensitivity of the regulatory authorities in the EU to fruit fly infestation and chemical residues, the export protocol focuses much its attention around those two issues (fruit fly infestation and chemical residues).
The professional growers are more meticulous about the protocol, while the small (and less professional) growers are less meticulous about it.
It is common practice that smallholders send their produce to a large packing house, where fruits are “mixed” with the fruits coming from the professional farms.
It is important to note that the detection of early-stage infestation by fruit flies (eggs or young maggots) is an extremely difficult task.
Hence, infested fruits that arrived at the packing house may reach the export market within a few days after packing. However, a few days after leaving the packing house, the infestation becomes easier to detect.
The result is repeated interceptions at the export markets, of fruits with chemical residues or infested by fruit flies.
The outcome of such interceptions is a warning to the country where fruits came from.
When it repeats itself, the exporting country is risking a total Export Ban!
When that happens, the Export Ban is imposed on all growers and produce arriving from that country, regardless of big, small, professional or not.
Meaning, the professional grower and the smallholder, BOTH and ALL, will not be able to export. Their future, when it comes to exporting mango, is intertwined, and tightly coupled.
Such is their Current Status.
THE DREAM STATUS
The farmer I was talking with is aware of the fact that too often, the fruits infested by fruit flies or with chemical residues come from, unprofessional small growers, who are unable to properly cope with the Export Protocol’s demands.
Smallholders are precisely the kind of growers that endanger his business and his economic future.
Why? Because professional growers are ready to invest huge sums, basing their investments on the export markets, knowing that local markets can offer a lower income, which is not sufficient to cover their investments.
The mango grower in this story recognizes the risk to his agri-business that is introduced by poor quality mangoes, with chemical residues and infested by fruit flies, which are often originating from smallholders and ending up in export markets.
Now we see why the farmer’s dream makes sense and is VERY reasonable from his point of view.
He simply wants to be able to continue exporting, and he doesn’t want troubles coming from smallholders. After all, he is simply taking care of his business and understands the situation well.
THE FARMER’S DREAM WILL COME TRUE, BUT IN A DIFFERENT WAY
Current situation hard facts –
1. Today in Senegal, there are thousands of mango growers, most of which are smallholders.
2. In Africa, mangoes’ average infestation by fruit flies is 50%, and so is the case in Senegal.
3. Despite tremendous efforts, for decades, there has been no significant improvement in the ability to control fruit flies.
4. The state of Senegal, for its part, is trying to impose the export protocol on smallholders, but with limited success.
In my view, the Mango grower’s dream to see effective fruit fly control without chemical residues, to be executed by all farmers, including smallholders, is not realistic or practically feasible in the near future.
Does this mean that our mango grower has no other option?
Does it mean that he is sentenced to wait until one dark day he will be noticed that his country is under Export Ban, which means that he will lose his livelihood and life investment?
It is not possible under the current concept and protocol, but it is achievable if we change our concept and protocol, as explained in the next part.
THE SOLUTION THAT MADE OUR FARMER SMILE
After understanding his concerns, I explained to the farmer what he already knows –
“The state has tried but in most cases failed to help the smallholders export mangoes free of fruit flies and chemical residues.
The state failed because under current conditions; it is impossible to reach that target, no matter how good is the fruit fly control solution.
If we are open to adopting a new concept, then there is another possibility.
Such possibility/, other option, deals with the situation that even if the export is banned due to irresponsible export of certain growers, you will be able to continue exporting.
In such a situation, the future of your export depends only on you, not on any other grower.
What do you think about that?”
Our farmer’s face lit up, and a wide smile came over his face. “that is very interesting, tell me more,” he said.
“Look,” I said, “in the current situation, even if you export fruit that is 100% free of fruit flies and chemical residues, you may find yourself unable to export, because your future is interlinked and depends on the ability of ALL mango exporters in the country to export at Export Quality, meaning you are all in the same pot.
As we understand, today, some exporters fail to meet the requirements, and from time to time, fruits infested by fruit flies or with chemical residues are intercepted in the export markets.
Today all mango exporters work according to the same Export Protocol, controlling fruit flies in the same ways, spray the same chemicals, use the same traps, and perform the same fruit fly monitoring.
Hence, we should not be surprised that results are also (more or less) similar to the regional average – 50% fruit infestation by fruit flies, the need to harvest early even before fruits are properly mature and conclude exports early in the season.
These are risky and undesirable results!
But what if there was a new concept of a different Export Protocol,
one with even stricter quality standard, one that is using a far more effective fruit fly control technology, with far more advanced monitoring and quality assurance process?
Furthermore, what if this new protocol will be applied separately to each (large) farmer or even area?!
In this case, if infested mangoes are intercepted in an export market, we will know from which grower it is coming, and which protocol he was using, i.e., the old or new protocol.
Hence, only growers using a specific protocol or even from a certain project will go under an Export Ban (or asked to improve).
You see, whoever follows a different protocol, and more stringent, will be able to continue exporting as usual. His fate will depend only on his actions and results.”
I then continued and said the grower, “My friend, there is such protocol and
it is called – Fruit Fly Certified Trade Zone (FFCTZ).
The FFCTZ protocol is based on the use of a powerful revolutionary fruit fly control solution, the FreeDome.
In addition, FFCTZ is incorporating and applying advanced knowledge and knowhow from several related fields, including fruit fly ecology, fruit fly population dynamics, monitoring fruit fly population and infestation, risk assessment, and more, in a way that allows Export Quality to be achieved even from locations/places/farms that until now, due to fruit flies, no one even dreamed of exporting [>><<].
What do you think about it?“
The mango grower just smiled and said – “Mama! When can we start?“
At this point, the mango grower can start safely export once we realize that the new Export Protocol, without caring about smallholders.
If you ask, “what about the smallholders?” I will say that they too can export, as is the case in Israel.
It is doable if the smallholders organize, and together form a sizable Fruit Fly Certified Trade Zone project. This is how they will be able to freely and safely export, increasing their income without endangering anyone else’s export.
I believe that making this world a better place is possible through combining Good-Business with Doing-Good for the Consumers, the Farmers, and our Blue Planet Environment.
Contact me if you wish to kick-start your economy or national scale operation using advanced economic models, protocols, and field-tested agricultural technologies. Let’s see how together we can take it a GIANT step forward.