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Why are people afraid of introducing new vegetables and fruit trees and fruit trees

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New vegetables and fruit trees are not dangerous or invasive. On the contrary, they are interesting tools to improve public health and annual income. By the way, once potatoes, tomatoes and maize …

New vegetables and fruit trees are not dangerous or invasive. On the contrary, they are interesting tools to improve public health and annual income. By the way, once potatoes, tomatoes and maize were 'new' vegetables or fruits on our market, didn't they ?

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  • 1. WHY ARE PEOPLE AFRAID OF INTRODUCING NEW VEGETABLES AND FRUIT TREES?<br />Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM<br />University of Ghent (Belgium)<br />Since August 2007, the time that we launched our action 'SEEDS FOR FOOD' (www.seedsforfood.org), a number of people came up with questions about the danger of introducing new vegetables and fruits in developing countries.<br />We have already replied to these 'interrogations' in a couple of messages:<br />(1) Invasive vegetables?  Could they create problems? (Adam STUART / Patrick HARRY / Willem VAN COTTHEM) Permalink: http://desertification.wordpress.com/2009/11/27/invasive-veget…em-van-cotthem/<br />(2) A convenient truth for combating hunger and desertification (Willem Van Cotthem)Permalink: http://desertification.wordpress.com/2009/11/01/a-convenient-t…em-van-cotthem/<br />Today, I like to bring to your special attention an article published by African Agriculture:<br /> HYPERLINK " http://www.africanagricultureblog.com/2010/07/us-farmers-find-opportunity-in.html" " _blank" http://www.africanagricultureblog.com/2010/07/us-farmers-find-opportunity-in.html<br />US farmers find opportunity in vegetables newly introduced by immigrants<br />Let me highlight some paragraphs:<br />Maxixe, a Brazilian relative of the cucumber, is relatively unknown in the U.S., but it may one day be as common as cilantro as farmers and consumers embrace more so-called ethnic vegetables.<br />Agriculture experts ...............are teaching farmers to grow non-native vegetables that appeal to a growing market  ................ And as other customers become more familiar with ethnic foods, experts expect sales to grow even more.<br />The number of Massachusetts-farmers markets that carry ethnic vegetables jumped by 25 percent in a year, ......................<br />Sales of ethnic vegetables have benefited from " buy local" marketing campaigns and federal farm legislation giving states grants to expand specialty crop production, ........................ There's also been a greater emphasis on marketing specialty vegetables,<br /> .......... cilantro was considered a specialty item 25 years ago, but " now it's on everything." Bok choy, a Chinese cabbage, also was once considered exotic. " Now, it's another leafy green," ....................<br />His association helps Hmong, Kenyan, Mexican and other immigrant farmers adapt to U.S. agriculture and introduces them to local markets where they've been able to sell growing amounts of mustard greens, beans and other ethnic crops. " We see a huge demand for it across the board, from restaurants to small stores, big stores and farmers markets," he said.<br />With maxixe ................., they grow chipilin ................., a legume from Mexico and Central America; jilo ............. , an eggplant-like crop grown in Brazil and West Africa; and hierba mora ................, a member of the tomato family.<br />Even if farmers grow only a few ethnic crops, they benefit by having a greater variety that reduces the likelihood of serious financial problems if one or two crops fail, ....................<br />............... ethnic crops represent a small share of what they grow compared with such items as sweet corn, pepper and cucumber, but that could change as immigration increases. " I don't know if it's going to be as big as summer squash or zucchini, but as the market evolves it will be more important," ................<br />It also works with farmers to spur production of vegetables that have caught on with consumers, who've read about them or tried them in restaurants,......................<br />" Farmers are always interested in new and unique things. They're interested in things that can make it to market." <br />" You've got to be careful about the products you grow because you may not have the market to support it." <br />Having read all this, we come to the following conclusions:<br />If farmers and consumers in the US (where regulations for import of 'foreign' plant materials' are extremely severe) are allowed to 'embrace more so-called ethnic vegetables', why would smallholder farmers, with the help of international organizations an/or NGOs, not embrace well-adapted 'new' species of vegetables and fruit trees, e.g. by getting offered free seeds?<br />If agriculture experts in the US are teaching farmers to grow non-native vegetables that appeal to a growing market, why can the experts in developing countries not take the lead to enhance the marketing chances of poor smallholder farmers.  Their organizations could easily, and at the lowest costs, provide the necessary quantities of seeds.<br />If in the US other customers become more familiar with ethnic foods and experts expect sales to grow even more, why wouldn't this bed the case in Africa, Asia and South America?<br />If the already saturated Massachusetts farmers markets that carry ethnic vegetables jumped by 25 percent in a year, what could be expected for the markets in developing countries, where almost every woman sells the same vegetables and fruits at the same moment of the year, thus keeping the prizes low.<br />Why would these smallholder farmers and their women not be able to sell 'specialty products'?<br />If a 'specialty 25 years ago in the US' could become 'just another leafy green', this can also happen in the developing countries.<br />Associations in the US helped farmers to adapt to U.S. agriculture and introduced them to local markets where they've been able to sell growing amounts of crops. If we really want to combat hunger, child malnutrition and poverty, let our international and non-governmental organization make a priority of introducing 'new' vegetables to local markets, e.g. by concentrating first on the most drought-tolerant ones.<br />Farmers growing only a few new crops would benefit by having a greater variety that reduces the likelihood of serious financial problems if one or two crops fail.<br />Newly introduced crops represent a small share compared with the classical ones, but that could change, as people get accustomed to the new crops. " I don't know if it's going to be as big as summer squash or zucchini, but as the market evolves it will be more important," .<br />Smallholder farmers, wherever they live, are always interested in new or unique things that can make it to market.  Why wouldn't they be able to spur production of vegetables that have caught on with consumers?<br />Of course, they have to be careful about the products they grow, because the market to support it may not exist.  But isn't that an interesting task for the international and national agriculture experts, assisting those farmers?<br />My answer to the question 'Are newly introduced vegetables and fruit trees dangerous?' is therefore a categorical NO.<br />And, by the way, once potatoes, tomatoes and maize were 'new' vegetables or fruits on our market, didn't they?<br />We are looking for support for our action 'Seeds for Food' in order to help the smallholder farmers, if not all the hungry people of this world, to decent daily meals with a lot of safe, hazardless, reliable, trustworthy, harmless, healthy fresh vegetables and juicy fruits.<br />