Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

KEYNOTE PAPER

Growing Role of Vegetables in Food Security and Nutrition,
 and Income Generation in Asia

by

Hiroyuki Konuma
Assistant Director-General and
FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific

delivered at the

Regional Symposium on
High Value Vegetables in Southeast Asia: Production, Supply and Demand

24 January 2012
Chiang Mai, Thailand

 

Summary

This paper presents a case for developing countries of Asia to undertake concerted efforts to boost their food security and nutrition. One approach to do this is to increase production of vegetables, in which Asian countries enjoy a natural comparative advantage, and also to enhance vegetable consumption by motivating people to eat diets rich in nutritious vegetables. Despite significant efforts in combating under-nutrition in many countries of the region, the absolute numbers of undernourished people remain unacceptably high with 925 million people suffer from undernutrition, out of which nearly two thirds live in Asia.  The situation would further be deteriorated due to soaring and volatile food prices, stagnation of expansion of arable land, decline of water resources, negative impact of climate changes and frequent occurrence of natural disasters, etc., if appropriate counter measures are not taken to reverse the situation.

Vegetable production plays an important role in promoting household food security and nutrition, and provides sustainable solution to micronutrient malnutrition which is affecting the health of 2 billion people on the planet including children.

Vegetable production generates employment and income of small scale farmers especially women, and offers one of the highest impacts to reducing poverty and hunger. On the other hand, much of the potential of the expansion of vegetable cultivation remains largely untapped, in part due to government policies and priorities on increasing domestic production of main staples in framework of attaining calorie based food security. However, countries wish to consider balanced approaches through the promotion of crop diversification and explore opportunities to increase production of nutritionally-rich vegetable crops that will not undermine the larger goal of sustaining increased production of cereals, but will aim at ensuring the availability of a diversified range of vitamins and micronutrient rich products at an affordable price, to satisfy essential human needs.

We argue in this paper that for smallholder and resource-poor farmers, vegetable cultivation remains the most suitable option for cost-effective and efficient utilization of family labour; land space in and around homesteads; overcoming micronutrient deficiency, and increasing income. Availability of a wide range of vegetable crops allows choosing the suitable ones to fit in intensive cereal-based cropping systems. Over the past decade, many Asian countries, particularly China, made significant strides in increasing the production and productivity of vegetables. But this increase is still inadequate to lift vegetable consumption to FAO/WHO recommended level. 

We explore further opportunities and untapped potentials that can help achieve sustained growth in vegetable production to enhance its contribution to national economy. Promotion of organic cultivation with appropriate controls and compliance to certification and standards may open new opportunities for boosting exports in niche markets in the developed world.  Areas close to metropolises and urban centers offer considerable opportunities for cost-effective vegetable cultivation by reduction of post-harvest losses, transportation costs and improved marketing. Expanding the cultivation of indigenous vegetable crops and off-season cultivation with appropriate protective technologies can contribute to increasing the supply of vegetable year-round and preventing a market glut in the winter season with depressing prices and depriving growers of remunerative prices. A focus on indigenous vegetables is particularly important in the efforts aimed at conservation and utilization of vegetable crop germplasm.

In order to be able to move on all these fronts, significant investment and concerted efforts must continue in strengthening research and development; capacity building and education; and adapting vegetable cultivation to concomitant changes in agricultural production systems and increasing its resilience to climate change and natural disasters.

Introduction

1.  In a world of 7 billion people, FAO estimates that a total of 925 million people were undernourished in 2010, which was slightly reduced if compared with 1.02 billion in 2009, but remained higher than pre-2008 level. WHO estimates that 10 million children die before their 5th birthday every year, and that one third of these deaths are associated with undernutrition. One in three children in developing country under the age of five (178 million children) are stunted due to chronic undernutrition and 148 million children are underweight. Micronutrient malnutrition or “hidden hunger” is affecting around 2 billion people (nearly 30% of the world population) with serious public health consequences.

In deed, the world produces sufficient food to meet the demand of everyone to satisfy calorie requirement, yet food is not accessed equally. This access problem became more critical for nutritionally valuable food products such as vegetables, and when the food price increased and became volatile, especially for the poor consumers who spend as much as 70 percent of their household income on food.

Agriculture remains the largest contributor to the employment and livelihoods of nearly 70 percent of the people in developing countries who represent the largest portion of the poor and undernourished population. The agriculture sector is far more than just a food producer. It produces food for direct consumption at household level and contributes to national food security, but also it generates employment and income, while safeguarding the natural resource base, upon which the majority of mankind relies. This sector offers the highest impact to reducing poverty and hunger, and greatest potential for achieving sustained improvements in the nutrition status of the poor.

Despite of the fastest economic growth, there were 578 million undernourished people in the Asia-Pacific region in 2010, which represented 62 percent of the world total. Ninety one (91) percent of them live in just 6 countries (India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Philippines). Despite significant efforts in combating under-nutrition and malnutrition in many countries of the region, the absolute numbers remain almost the same level of 20 years ago. The achievement of MDG goal No.1 to halve the proportion of extreme hunger from 20 percent in base year (1990) to 10 percent in 2015 became very uncertain, if consider the rate remained at 16 percent in 2010. 

2. The global population is growing at the rate of about 6 million each month, and is projected to reach around 9.1 billion by year 2050 (FAO). Most of this growth will be in the developing world. The size of the Asian population will reach nearly 5 billion (56 percent of the world population) by that time. At the same time, a very rapid urbanization is taking place including in Asia. At present, already 50 per cent of world population lives in cities, which is expected to reach 60 percent in 2030 and nearly 70 percent by 2050. To meet the demand of this larger, more urban and richer (on average) population, FAO estimates that the world food production (net of food used for liquid biofuels) must increase by 70 percent (100 percent in developing countries alone).  If we fail to achieve this goal, world hunger situation would be worsened and global security and world piece would be seriously threatened. 

FAO expects that globally 90 percent of (80 percent in developing countries) of the growth in crop production will have to come from intensification, in particular varietal improvement and cropping intensification. This would result in major challenge for agricultural research (public and private).

More serious challenges, however, are projected to come from existing constraints if we fail to solve the problems, such as soaring food prices and volatility, stagnation of expansion or decline of arable land, scarcity of water resources, frequent occurrence of natural disasters, high crude oil price leading to high costs of agricultural inputs and transport, competition of use of land and water with bio-energy crops and decline of investment in agriculture.

Against these backgrounds, I now move to the main theme of this paper “growing role of vegetables in food security and nutrition, and income generation in Asia”.

3. Addressing the needs of adequate and nutritionally-balanced and safe food for rapidly growing and increasingly urbanized population of Asia is a daunting challenge for all of us. In this context, per capita income growth and the shift of consumer preference toward more diverse and nutritious foods are major driving factors taking place.

Vegetables are an excellent resource for overcoming micronutrient deficiencies and providing smallholder farmers with much higher income and more jobs per hectare than staple crops (WHO-FAO, 2004; AVRDC, 2006). For poor households, vegetables and fruits are often the only sources of micronutrients in the family diet. Low fruit and vegetable intake is largely responsible for micronutrient deficiencies that aggravate the risk of mortality and morbidity throughout the life course. A continued dietary deficit in micronutrients and vitamins may emerge as a more serious nutritional problem than a lack of energy in Asia over the coming decades. Starchy foods still account for the bulk of share of the source for dietary energy in most South Asian countries, especially in Bangladesh, Nepal and India where the rate of under-nutrition is identically high (Table 1).

Table 1: Extent of dietary imbalance in selected countries of South Asia, 1990-1992 to 2003-2005 

Country

 Undernutrition (%)

Dietary Energy from starchy staple (%)

1990-1992

1995-1997

2003-2005

     Bangladesh

46

85

84

82

     India

48

66

64

60

     Maldives

30

51

45

40

     Nepal

45

79

77

73

     Pakistan

38

56

53

51

Source: FAOSTAT, 2011
 

4. Worldwide the harvested area under vegetable crops rose to 54.7 million ha increasing at an annual rate of 2.49% over the period 2001-2009 (Table 2). South Asian countries notably Bangladesh and Nepal had the highest rate of increase in cropped area under vegetables followed by China. Global production of vegetables reached 941.85 million tons increasing at an average annual rate of 3.02 per cent over the same period. China ranks top in the world with 48.8% share of world vegetable production in 2009 (Table 3). India was the second largest producer of vegetables contributing 9.7 per cent to global production in 2009. Except China, elsewhere in East Asia production of vegetables mostly stagnated during the past decade with negative growth rates recorded in Japan and the Republic of Korea. Next to China, South Asian countries, Bangladesh, India, and Nepal recorded higher growth rates in vegetable production.

Asia accounted for about 76.0 per cent of the global production of vegetables in 2009.

Table 2: Harvested Area under Vegetable Crops in Selected Countries of Asia (000 ha)

Country

2001

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

AGR, %

     Bangladesh

306

389

422

453

455

455

5.08

     India

5616

5616

6110

5905

6549

6623

2.08

     Pakistan

347

385

421

419

435

435

2.87

     Nepal

153

170

198

208

229

236

5.57

     Myanmar

279

301

308

309

311

311

1.37

     Thailand

351

383

376

375

391

388

1.26

     Vietnam

582

671

671

671

671

671

1.79

     Philippines

572

582

628

639

628

628

1.17

     China

17166

22151

23000

23717

24080

24827

4.72

     Japan

456

432

406

439

409

404

-1.50

     Korea Republic of

422

364

326

318

307

307

-3.90

     Korea DPR

308

323

322

319

319

319

0.44

     World

44953

50824

52327

52705

53710

54739

2.49

AGR – Annual Growth Rate, Source: FAO Statistical Yearbook, 2008 and 2010
 

Table 3: Production of Vegetables in Selected Countries of Asia (000 ton)

Country

2001

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

AGR, %

     Bangladesh

1794

2568

2905

3197

3362

3362

8.17

     India

73992

68883

77446

77243

90118

90757

2.59

     Pakistan

4693

5032

5449

5509

5481

5481

1.96

     Nepal

1508

1891

2233

2375

2602

2812

8.10

     Myanmar

3382

3906

4010

4068

4087

4087

2.40

     Thailand

3090

3342

3346

3389

3706

3728

2.37

     Vietnam

6645

7991

7991

7991

7991

7991

2.33

     Philippines

4887

5353

5721

5988

5342

5325

1.08

     China

321824

423932

432222

451633

457830

459558

4.55

     Japan

12710

11801

11263

12700

10963

10600

-2.24

     Korea Republic

11938

11413

11243

11907

11278

11278

-0.71

     Korea DPR

3757

3992

3876

3756

3756

3756

0.00

     World

742541

869041

895615

908838

931857

941849

3.02

AGR – Annual Growth Rate, Source: FAO Statistical Yearbook, 2008 and 2010
 

5. China ranks top in the world in production of vegetables followed by a distant second India (Table 3). In some countries, for example in Vietnam, vegetables are the second most important crop after rice. Vegetables traditionally occupy pre-eminence in Asian diets for a variety of reasons. The region boasts of a rich biodiversity with more than 80 different types of vegetables that can be grown year round. High labour intensity in vegetable production provides good scope to generate employment opportunities for small scale farmers in the informal sector. Overall, in addition to such dietary benefits and income generating avenues, vegetable production offers substantial opportunities for value addition and growth of export-oriented small and medium scale agri-business operations.

6. Region-wise, Eastern Asia had the highest level of vegetable production driven by record increase in production in China followed by a distant second Southern Asia (Table 4). Yields were highest in East Asia varying from around 19 t/ha in China to 37 t/ha in the Republic Korea.

Table 4: Harvested Area (million ha) and Production (million tons) of Vegetables in Asia

Region

1991

2001

2009

Area

Production

Area

Production

Area

Production

     Central Asia

-

-

0.45

7.47

0.57

13.48

     Eastern Asia

9.16

163.35

20.48

408.37

23.82

549.79

     Southern Asia

6.14

64.05

7.54

100.13

8.94

124.15

     South-Eastern Asia

2.23

17.95

2.95

27.25

3.28

33.47

     Western Asia

1.46

28.42

1.96

39.51

2.05

44.66

     Asia

18.99

273.77

33.38

582.73

38.66

765.55

Source: FAOSTAT 2011
 

7. Global supply of vegetables (per capita per year) has increased from 77kg in 1987 to 120kg in 2007. But it will be considerably less if we take into account 20-30 percent or more of production lost between the farmgate and the plate - in post-harvest handling, transportation, and storage. The FAO/WHO expert consultation (2004) on diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases recommended a daily intake of 400g (defined as consuming five servings) of fruits and vegetables (excluding potatoes and other starchy tubers) to prevent heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity. It is worth mentioning that tthe estimated levels of current fruit and vegetable intake vary considerably from less than 100 grams per day in less developed countries to about 450 grams in Western Europe. As evident from Table 6, annual per capita supply of vegetables ranged from 62.4 kg in Southern Asia to 260.9 kg in Eastern Asia. Per capita vegetable supply is highest in Asia compared to other regions of the world and even higher than world average (Table 5). Within Asia, Eastern Asia tops the list followed by Western Asia and Central Asia (Table 6). Per capita availability of vegetable is lowest in South Eastern Asia followed by Southern Asia. What is interesting to note that consumption rose among poor consumers. Demand is also growing due to urbanization, improvement in connectivity, and increasing income levels. According to FAO, the share of domestic consumption rose from 85 percent to 90 percent of total national production. However, world vegetable production is still far from meeting even the basic nutritional needs of most countries. The situation is particularly dire in countries that are already food insecure. A lack of local supplies and affordable prices are major causes of low consumption.

Table 5: Status of Vegetable Supply in the World (kg/capita/yr)

Continent

1987

1997

2007

     Asia

74.87

103.67

143.68

     Africa

50.53

51.97

57.49

     Americas

69.90

75.05

82.07

     Europe

108.27

106.84

116.77

     World

76.56

93.37

119.53

Source: FAOSTAT 2011
 

Table 6: Status of Vegetable Supply Scenario in Asia (kg/capita/yr)

Region

1987

1997

2007

     Central Asia

-

79.53

153.87

     Eastern Asia

101.23

169.61

260.87

     Southern Asia

49.80

51.36

62.40

     South-Eastern Asia

36.73

44.27

52.48

     Western Asia

167.21

150.36

154.23

     Asia

74.87

103.67

143.68

Source: FAOSTAT 2011
 

Issues and Challenges

8.  In many countries in Asia, Government agricultural policy heavily placed on the attainment of self-sufficiency in staple food and increased production of cereals such as rice and wheat to achieve calorie based food security, with a limited attention to the importance of crop diversification and value of vegetables as a sustainable solution to micronutrient malnutrition.

9. While, demand for vegetables is increasing due to population increase, economic growth and increasing income level, rapid urbanization, improvement in connectivity, etc., the productivity of vegetables remains still low in South and Southeast Asia varying from 7.4t/ha to 13 t/ha, as against the level of 19t/ha in China and  37t/ha in the Republic of Korea.

Though, some countries in Asia have achieved a good growth in the production of vegetables, the production remains very low especially in SAARC and ASEAN countries. As a result, their domestic vegetable production is still very far from desired level to secure adequate supply to domestic consumers at an affordable price and to lift vegetable consumption to FAO/WHO recommended level, which is the root cause of under- and malnutrition in these countries.

10. Vegetables are generally sensitive to environmental extremes. Climate change is likely to aggravate this further. Erratic rainfall and high temperature spells driven by climate change may reduce productivity and production of vegetables. Suitable land availability for vegetable cultivation is another issue of great concern. Due to conflict of interest with other sectors (like fisheries) and competition for land and water within subsector, vegetables are being pushed in marginal and less fertile areas lessening its productivity and production. Due to excessive pressure for staple production and subsequently land deficit, is leading to erosion of plant genetic resources of the region. Unfortunately, vegetables are still not the priority R&D areas for the majority of the governments in the region. It is a challenging task to include vegetables R&D in the main streme of the R&D. Input supply systems mainly quality seeds is weak. Farmers often do not receive quality and healthy seeds in time with affordable prices. In spite of huge efforts in the last 30 years, the success in vegetable input supply systems is not up to the mark. In addition to that production costs are on rise compared to output prices making vegetable production less attractive to the poor farmers. Marketing facilities for vegetable crops are extremely under-developed and even in some very remote areas do not exist depriving farmers getting remunerative prices for their produces.
 
11. The opportunities to increase production of vegetables clearly lie in smallholder farming systems with greater involvement of women farmers for efficient utilization of spaces adjacent to homesteads. The more people produce the more people will have access to fresh vegetables for their own daily consumption.  Technology development should focus on addressing constraints in fitting diverse vegetable crops in cereal-based cropping systems and bringing unutilized homestead areas under intensive vegetable cultivation. Exploring additional opportunities and untapped potentials can help achieve sustained growth in vegetable production to enhance its contribution to national incomes

Options for Increasing Vegetable Production

12. Asia’s highly urbanized population could be turned into an advantage by promoting urban and peri-urban horticulture. Profitability and sustainability of peri-urban agriculture and horticulture (UPA/H)  in general, and that of vegetable production, in particular, is virtually guaranteed by the nearby existence of large populations, relatively low transportation and packaging costs and low post-harvest losses. Urban and peri-urban agriculture has been rapidly expanding, often as an informal sector. What is needed is the integration of UPA/H in national food and nutrition security strategies and provision of adapted urban and peri-urban extension systems mainly through development of connectivity and communication technologies - including smoothening of input supply systems.   

13. The Asia-Pacific region is endowed with a rich diversity of vegetable crops that can be grown in a range of environments from temperate to tropical climates. But erratic rainfall and high temperature spells driven by climate change may reduce productivity and production of vegetable crops. Movement of crops along the temperature gradient – from tropical to sub-tropical and sub-tropical to temperate – is a natural coping strategy to adapt to temperature changes. The other strategy relies on adjusting crop management technologies to allow for escape of the most sensitive developmental stages of vegetable crop plants from the deleterious effects of high temperatures.

14. Many of the challenges facing agriculture currently and in the future will require more innovative and integrated applications of existing knowledge, science and technology (formal, traditional and community-based), as well as new approaches for agricultural and natural resource management . Enhancing productivity and expanding the cultivation of vegetable crops across the Asia-Pacific region will require substantial achievements in R&D to effectively address ongoing constraints as well as to address emerging concerns driven by climate change.

15. Of particular concern will be ensuring product quality and safety in an environment where insect pests and diseases are often a major threat. This will require research, demonstration and training to disseminate Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) including IPM in order to reduce the reliance on conventional pesticide spraying.

16. Technology and support service systems should be tailored to the distinct nature and specific needs of each category of vegetable production systems. Attempts to introduce uniform solutions will be counter-productive. Simple, affordable, and accessible technologies must be available to increase the resilience of smallholder vegetable farmers to cope with increased problems due to high temperatures, drought, salinity, and flooding. Vegetable production in Asia as elsewhere in the world is centered on a few well-domesticated species for which production practices are standardized and value chains well developed, key prerequisites for vegetable-based enterprise development. As a result, a vast reservoir of the continent’s indigenous vegetable species remains untapped and under-utilized. Indigenous vegetables offer a range of advantages. They are easy to grow, require minimal extra inputs, and can fit into year-round production systems. These attributes make them highly suited to smallholder farmers in Asia. They have also immense value as a measure of adaptation to changing environments due to climate change.

17. Enhanced investment in capacity building and in education will benefit and lead to a nation of more aware producers and consumers who eat more vegetables. Continuous capacity building and education are key components of sustainable vegetable production. 

18. Cultivation of vegetables in off-season is an emerging practice to ensure adequate year-round supply of fresh vegetables. Off-season vegetable cultivation also allows growing non-conventional varieties and high-value crops that are in high demand in international markets. Greenhouse crop production including cultivation in plastic covered tunnels is viable technologies that allow for off-season vegetable production and streamlining of insect pest and disease management. These technologies are already widely practiced in China. More concerted efforts are needed to assist farmers in adopting these technologies.

19. Production of vegetables according to organic farming principles is steadily expanding in Asian countries. The demand for organically produced vegetables is constantly growing especially in the developed countries and city markets. This provides for a market opportunity and added value to be further developed where feasible.

20. Post-harvest losses especially in vegetables are presently in the range of 20 to 30 percent or more and contribute directly to higher costs and reduced availability of these commodities. Post-harvest losses continue to pose challenges and substantially reduce the food availability; but also represent economic losses as well as a considerable waste of water and energy used to grow and harvest the produce that has been lost. Most of the existing marketing systems for vegetables are quite fragmented and supply chains are inadequate for handling perishable commodities. Improved farmers’ organization and community based production systems in rural areas could be an option for poor farmers to have more access to market outlets. Promoting decentralized marketing and proximity production systems including home gardens will help reducing post-harvest losses by shortening the production-supply- consumption chain as much as possible.

21. With diverse agro-ecological settings across the region, it is not impossible to increase vegetable production and consumption provided appropriate policies are in place to promote investment and design both long-term and short-term interventions involving participation by both public and private sectors. In this respect WHO and FAO have jointly elaborated a framework for action  to promote vegetable and fruit consumption in support to Governments’ health and nutrition policies. In addition, seed policy is also a key policy document to can help shape the development in any segment of field crops including vegetables.

22. Improving vegetable marketing systems and increasing its efficiency through investment in strengthening the value chains and upgrading physical facilities in rural markets can provide significant incentive for farmers to increase production of vegetables. In many Asian countries, the structural inefficiency is a great barrier to improving the vegetable marketing system. The vegetables co-operative marketing institutions may play an important role in providing market accessibility to the small farmers. Concerted efforts through public-private partnership (PPP) in this regard would not only remove imperfections in the vegetable marketing system but would also help in raising the quality of production by making available critical inputs to the farmers and  ensuring the implementation of Good Agriculture Practices.

23. From the perspective of generating incomes, the vegetable sector holds significant potential provided adequate investments are made in improving post harvest management and development of agro-processing industries, and strengthening the vegetable value chains.  There is an opportunity to significantly increase the supply of high quality and safe fresh and processed vegetables for local and export markets. This would require awareness creation and training about international food safety standards as established by Codex Alimentarius and the promotion of product labeling and traceability, following the guidelines and protocols of private sector trade initiatives such as GLOBALGAP.

24. Increasing production and consumption of vegetables can significantly contribute to enhancing nutrition security and health; particularly in developing countries where the prevalence of under-nutrition and malnutrition is still pervasive. But much of the tremendous potential of the expansion of vegetable cultivation remains largely untapped, in part due to government policies refocused on increasing domestic production of main staples in the framework of attaining food security that also seeks drastic reduction of reliance on international trade to meet the deficit in supply. However, countries must consider balanced and nuanced approaches and explore opportunities to increase production of nutritionally-rich vegetable crops that will not undermine the larger goal of sustaining increased production of food cereals but will aim at ensuring the availability of a diversified range of products for a healthy and sustainable diet.

Recommendations

25.  Efforts should be directed at the development and implementation of value chain approach, including Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) in vegetable crop production systems to ensure products quality and safety, promote agro-processing , linking them with market and take advantage of income generating potential by offering a diversified range of fresh and processed vegetables for both local and export markets.  

26. In order to achieve sustainable growth in production of vegetables, equal emphasis should be given to four available options: increasing productivity; expansion of area when required and possible; increasing cropping intensity and ensuring product quality and safety.

27. Sustainable crop intensification and climate change adaptation programme in vegetables should be promoted through enhancing agricultural research and investment including varietal improvement, seed production, water saving technology and other low cost crop intensification and farming technologies.

28. Emphasis should be given to fitting vegetables in the cropping pattern/farming systems of the smallholder farm families with adequate consideration for overcoming the challenges posed by ever changing and dynamic production systems. Concerted efforts should be focused on making vegetable crop production systems more diverse by motivating farmers to include a wide range of vegetable crops in their farming systems so that supply of adequate family nutrition is ensured and the risk of crop losses due to adverse climatic conditions minimized.

29. Small scale vegetable growers should be supported to enhance their group activities to strengthen bargaining power, access to skill development and training, credit, crop insurance,  market and other support services.

30. All proven approaches to increasing and sustaining vegetable production should be mobilized through public sector, private sector, and public-private partnership efforts:

  • Promotion of urban-, and peri-urban vegetable production practices including homestead vegetable production throughout the year with micro-garden systems on rooftops balconies and patios, when space and land area are scarcely available
  • Promotion of organic vegetable cultivation, when economically feasible and sustainable, to capture market niches with added value
  • Support of soilless vegetable production systems, where possible, to reduce pressure on crop lands and to address the needs of landless rural and urban poor.
  • Support for advanced technologies for vegetable production intensification and off-season vegetable production including greenhouses cultivation and hydroponics
  • Motivating farmers to cultivate a broad range of cultivars, including early maturing varieties to take the advantage of better market prices
  • Promote Integrated Pest management (IPM) in vegetable production. Use vegetable cultivars with multiple insect pest and diseases resistances to reduce the use of pesticides.

31. Urgent attention must be focused on improving postharvest management, reduction of postharvest and processing losses through more public sector investment in improving rural connectivity, infrastructure in rural markets facility including cool-chain storage and transportation; development of improved postharvest management and cost-effective processing technologies; and training of different stakeholders involved in vegetable supply chain.

32. Concerted efforts must be focused on eliminating existing loopholes in input supply systems for vegetable crops,  where delay in access to required inputs to match crop growth periods acts as a drag on improving productivity. This has particular implications for the small scale producers in rural, urban and peri-urban horticulture often affecting women vegetable growers whose productivity is hampered by the non-availability of adapted inputs at the right time resulting in reduced income and less supply of vegetables for household consumption and associated malnutrition at family level.

33. Suitable interventions should be designed for improving market efficiency that stimulates incentives for increasing production of vegetables. Such measures may include efforts at increasing household consumption of vegetables through training and demonstration of vegetable-based recipes for inclusion in family diets; establishing school gardens as a means to create awareness about growing and consuming vegetables and fruits for health; improving physical facilities in rural markets; and developing capacity of women farmers to have access to markets.

34. Focused efforts must be continued on conservation and use of lesser known traditional vegetable species and varieties to avoid the further erosion of plant biodiversity.

35. There should be a national and regional commitment for long-term investment in vegetable research and development to enhance the diversity and increase the yield potential of vegetable crops.

36. Priority should be given to capacity building and training especially for women farmers in rural areas in the context of increasing migration of male members in the family to urban centers in search of jobs.

37. Nutrition education at household level should be promoted for the preparation and consumption of a variety and diversity of vegetables. Food based nutrition approach as well as bio-fortification programme with vegetables as the key commodity, should be promoted to maximize the value and contribution of vegetables for food security and nutrition.

38. The focus on continued increase of vegetable production must not be at the expense of quality with the use of hazardous chemicals and unsafe production practices that may frustrate the whole effort to tailor vegetable production to ameliorating the existing scenario of undernourishment and malnutrition. This will require substantial national investment in capacity building for GAP and quality control from plough to plate, along the value chain.

39. Promote vegetable consumption through advocacy and public awareness on the value of vegetables as a key and only sustainable solution to combat with the problem of micro nutrient deficiency, which affects the health of nearly 2 billion people including a large number of children.

40. Increasing production and consumption of vegetables can significantly contribute to enhancing nutrition security and health; particularly in developing countries where the prevalence of under-nutrition, and malnutrition is still pervasive. But much of the tremendous potential of the expansion of vegetable cultivation remains largely untapped., in part due to government policies refocused on increasing domestic production of main staples in framework of attaining calorie based food security. However, countries must consider balanced and nuanced approaches and explore opportunities to increase production of nutritionally-rich vegetable crops that will not undermine the larger goal of sustaining increased production of food cereals but will aim at ensuring the availability of a diversified range of products for a healthy and sustainable diet.

41. Regional cooperation and partnership on the promotion of vegetables be strengthened with an aim to share knowledge and experience, learn from best practices and lessons, and promote concerted efforts towards the attainment of common goals to achieve food security and nutrition. FAO has been assisting member countries in this area and FAO’s efforts will continue.