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Session 3 - Producing and Exporting Organic Horticultural Products in Latin America and the Caribbean

“Overview of Organic Agriculture in Latin America and the Caribbean”


Mr Pipo Lernoud, World Board Member, IFOAM/MAPO, Argentina

Before beginning the main focus of this Conference that centres on the export possibilities of the continent, I would like to review the general situation.

Small Farmers Come Back to Life

Small farmers in Latin America have been maintaining the refined agricultural traditions of their great forefathers, the Incas, the Aymaras, the Mayas…and those traditions are organic.

Rotations, variety selection, fertility management that includes composting and mulching, sophisticated irrigation systems, long-term planning and community land management were all features of American agriculture 2000 and have somehow survived globalization.

Staple foods like potatoes, corn, pepper, many varieties of beans, tomatoes, etc., were developed as food products by the careful indigenous knowledge of the American inhabitants before Columbus arrived. All these traditions are alive in the farmers of indigenous descent along the Andes mountains, from Mexico to Argentina. Hundreds of thousands of small farmers are now gathering in associations to redignify their knowledge within the organic movement. Many of these families have a small family vegetable plot and produce coffee, cocoa, sugar, banana or other organic crops for export. Others unite to reach the weekly markets around the cities, bringing their vegetables and fruits. They are striving to make a living, but organic agriculture has allowed them to plan their harvests and find a growing market for their products. In Bolivia, the Association of Organizations of Ecological Producers of Bolivia (AOPEB), has more than 45 000 small farmers; in Peru more than 40 000 farmers have been registered; in Central America there are cooperatives and associations that unite a total of more than 50 000 families.

Local market

Some countries in Latin America have internal markets for organic products. In Brazil, for example, some producers' associations, like Cae Ipé in the southern states, get their vegetables and fruits together once a week and take them in their own trucks to the markets in the big cities. They sell in open fairs or supermarkets under the name of the farmer or the brand name of the association. A very similar, but smaller situation, can be seen in Ecuador through MCCH. In Argentina dozens of supermarkets are provided by groups of growers who unite to get variety and so various kinds of vegetables and fruits are accessible for mass consumption.


Supermarkets in Latin America are beginning to sell organic products. Vegetables are sold in Uruguay, Costa Rica, Honduras, Peru, Brazil and Argentina, among others. Processed products offered are limited due to the difficulty of getting big enough quantities. Argentina has a wide variety of oils, flours, honeys, wines and teas on supermarket shelves some chains have developed their own organic brands or have clearly defined organic sections. Sol de Acuario is a company that has a wide variety of certified products in Argentinean supermarkets, ranging from teas to breakfast cereals and corn flour.

Specialized Stores

Most Latin American countries feature specialized stores, or health-food stores, where farmers with organic produce can take their products to sell to a trained clientele. That is where the information about organic regulations and characteristics can reach the public. In the recent IFOAM Local Markets Conference in Buenos Aires, one of the conclusions reached by the Latin American participants is that the specialized stores inform the public better than supermarkets and that usually the owners of these shops help the organic market to grow by spreading the news about recently arrived products, teaching the consumers to respect the harvest seasons and caring for the vegetables in a special way. In Bolivia, the El Ceibo cooperative is a producer association that manages 8 000 hectares, mostly cocoa and paranuts, quinoa, coffee and hibiscus. And Irupana has more than 15 stores, 12 of them in La Paz, where they sell breakfast cereals and snacks made from native crops like quinoa or amaranth. A very developed processing plant belonging to Coronilla (a small family company), is producing various kinds of noodles and breakfast cereals with Andean cereals under such quality control that it is able to sell to the German market the same product sold locally.

Popular Fairs

Probably the most popular form of organic trade in Latin America is the neighbourhood fair or small informal market. In most towns there is a place, usually a square or sports arena, where the producers can sell their goods directly to the public on a weekly basis. This is a good opportunity for the farmers to get the full price, without middlemen intervention. Many local governments favour this kind of transaction and help the farmers by giving them the stalls and advertising their products. Although each of these local fairs has economic importance, they are very important for modest peasants and, in total, they represent an important percentage of the organic market of the continent. The Peruvian NGO “Red Agroecologica” (RAE) has developed thousands of these small weekly fairs all over the villages of Peru, taking advantage of a millenarian tradition of local trade that comes from the indigenous communities. Something similar takes place in many areas of South and Central America. Many groups of vegetable producers in Argentina, Brazil and Peru are selling to the public at the same prices as obtained conventional vegetables and they say: “We want the people to be able to choose freely, contaminated or pure. We don't want to sell only to the higher strata of society.”

In Costa Rica the vegetable producers have a marketing slogan: “From my family to your family.”

Box Schemes and Home Delivery

Another important organic trade system is the box scheme. In big cities, many producers organize a planned home-delivery circuit with fixed boxes containing assorted vegetables and fruits, and sometimes milk products and eggs brought from other farmers. This has been, in many cases, the starting-point of organic producers' associations and specialized shops that grew out of a successful home delivery system. In Argentina, probably the biggest internal market of the continent, it took ten years of box schemes to develop a consumers' base that could allow producers to have bigger sales in supermarkets. Uruguay is following the same pattern and Brazil has regional groups that have been reaching the public with organic produce through home-delivery for almost 20 years.

Community Supported Agriculture

This system that feeds over two million families in Japan and is growing in the United States, has reached the continent. In Peru and Brazil groups of consumers, usually around 40 families, make a long-term contract with a farmer so he provides all the vegetables they need during the year; they provide him with advance payment so the farmer can put that money to work in his fields, buying new machinery or irrigation systems and the families are assured of source of food throughout the year. They say it is a futures market, like buying stocks, based on trust and direct knowledge. They make an agreement to protect the farmer in case of natural disasters and the families get a fair price for their food. In Japan the system is called “Teikei,” in the United States “Community Supported Agriculture” (CSA) and in Latin America they call it “La Comunidad Sostiene a los Agricultores, CSA.”


Export is still the main organic activity in Latin America. From the coffee grains and bananas of Central America to the sugar in Paraguay and the cereals and meat in Argentina, the trade of ecological produce has mostly been geared towards foreign markets. This trend is typical of southern areas, with poorly developed national markets and in great need of cash to pay its international debts. Like most of the third world countries, the members of the American countries south of the Rio Bravo sell their basic products without any added value, to be processed in the developed countries for their national markets. Nevertheless, one could have complete with what the continent exports, including coffee with sugar, honey, fruits and breakfast cereals for the morning, meat, all kinds of vegetables, oils, grains, wine and fruit juices for lunch and dinner and maybe even some herb teas and sweets for dessert. It is very difficult for organic farmers in Latin America to meet the quality standards and regulations of the importing countries. Due to lack of information and governmental support, the farmers have to receive their training in quality control in the real market, getting their products rejected by the European, American or Japanese buyers.

It is also quite usual that the premium prices received for organic are not fully passed on to the producers and stays somewhere along the trade chain. But export of organics is a booming business. In Honduras and other places of Central America, big companies are buying land to produce organic for the export market and Benetton, the famous Italian clothing company has around 600 000 hectares in the Argentinean Patagonia where they raise sheep for organic wool. In Costa Rica, around 30 percent of the territory is protected natural area and there are many projects being developed there.

Fresh Fruits

Many Latin American countries have been selling their fruit harvest to Europe and the United States. Brazil sells apples and grapes; Chile has a very good kiwi export business and some fine fruits like raspberries and strawberries. Colombia, Honduras and the Dominican Republic sell bananas, pineapples, mangoes and other tropical fruits; Argentina sells apples, pears and citrus fruits, Mexico also has apples, avocados and bananas on the world market. Costa Rica is exporting 1.7 million kilos of banana for the baby food industry in Europe and America. Pineapple is also a growing export possibility in Central America.


Argentina, Brazil and Chile are big exporters of both fresh and dried vegetables. Costa Rica and other Central American countries sell smaller quantities of fresh vegetables to external markets.

Grains and Cereals

Paraguay is a big soybean producer, together with Argentina and Brazil; the latter countries also produce and export corn and wheat. Organic grain farmers in the south of the continent are having big problems with the genetically modified cultivars of soy (RR) and corn (bt) that have become mainstream in the area.


Mexico is one of the largest coffee producers in the world, with tens of thousands of tonnes of coffee grains, mostly harvested by small indigenous farmers, reaching the world's biggest supermarkets and coffee shops. Bolivia, Nicaragua, Guatemala and other Central American countries produce coffee with much the same characteristics. Production is mostly done in a silvicultural, ecological forest-management system, thus creating a valuable alternative to deforestation taking place in the region. Thirty percent of Peru's coffee production is organic. When the price of coffee is low, as it is at present, the farmers supplement their income from diversified production, selling tropical fruits to small processing plants. In Costa Rica this alternative is called “Organic Integrated Farms.”


Most of the coffee producing countries also produce cocoa for chocolate, which is usually processed in Europe under fair trade logos and certified by European companies. It is also a very important source of income for small farmers throughout Central America and the tropical areas of South America.


Paraguay, Ecuador and Argentina are some of the sugar producers in the area. Some of it is done by small farmers organized into in cooperatives who own or manage small sugar mills. As with coffee and cocoa production, these farmers' associations benefit from the certification system known as Internal Control, which is not accepted by the new USDA regulations.


Argentina is the biggest beef exporter in the region, with more than a million of hectares of certified meat (beef and lamb) production. It also exports poultry. There is also a strong internal market for organic meats in Argentina


With the exception of Argentina, which has a “Third Country” status in the European Union, all other Latin American producers need to be recertified by a European company to enter markets in Europe. Most of the produce for export in Latin America is certified by American or European companies, because the buyers impose certification.

Some certification bodies in the continent are very well developed, like Argencert and OIA in Argentina, Instituto Biodinamico in Brazil and Bolicert in Bolivia; all are IFOAM-accredited. Other certification agencies from the area are Maya Cert in Central America, Biolatina in Peru and other countries, Proa in Chile, Urucert and SCPB in Uruguay, Ecologica in Costa Rica, CertiMex in Mexico and Bio Nica in Nicaragua. Costa Rica has its own national standards, Paraguay and Chile are working on the process and Argentina now has a national law and its standards date back to 1992.

Some international agencies are active in the region, such as Ocia and FVO from the United States of America, Naturland, Oeko Garantie, Ecocert and IMO Control from Europe. Some days ago, in Cochabamba, Bolivia, the Latin American Members of IFOAM got together in a seminar about Social Responsibility in Organic Agriculture to discuss the development of Social Standards and prepare a proposal for the next IFOAM meeting in Canada.

Governmental Support

No Latin American country has subsidies or economical support for organic production. Costa Rica and some others have official funding for research and teaching; Argentina and Chile have had official agencies, which are helping producers get to the international fairs and with the printing of product catalogues; and in Mexico the Social Development Secretary is quite supportive. However, but in general the organic movement in Latin America has grown on its own, with some seed funding for extension and association building by international aid agencies, specially from Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland. International trade has been stimulated by the purchasing companies and fair trade agencies, focusing specially on some basic products like coffee and cocoa. Peru has recently developed a National Commission of Organic Products to stimulate production.

Latin America, one of the biodiversity reservoirs of the world, is just beginning to take cognizance of the enormous possibilities of organic agriculture. It has the farming traditions, the fertile lands and the varied climatic zones that allow it to produce almost anything in an ecological way, helping the much needed greening of the planet. (Some information was taken from the ITC Report "Organic food and beverages" prepared by Rudy Kortbech-Olesen and others. On sale at IFOAM Publications. An earlier version of this paper was published in Ecology and Farming, IFOAM's Maga.)

“Advances of Organic Agriculture in Cuba: Production and Commercialization of Organic Citrus Juices“


Ms María del Carmen Pérez, Director, Instituto de Investigaciones de Cítricos y otros Frutales, Cuba


M.C. Pérez, A. Correa, L. Kilcher, L.G. Morales, M. Montes, M. Borges, G. Vallín, I. Cabrera


The loss of food self-sufficiency in developing countries is not only due to the prevailing social injustice or to the international unfair exchange relations, but sometimes to the use of technological models divorced from third-world countries realities. Such models are usually marked by a high dependency on foreign inputs, a high and intense energy cost, high consumption of fertilizers, pesticides, mechanization and capital which also limit the possibilities of making good use of the locally available resources, including human resources.

As a result, a catastrophic situation has been created in the rural areas of tropical and subtropical countries; natural resources have been destroyed, soils have been eroded with the loss of its natural fertility; there has been an excessive emergence of pest and diseases in recent years as well as disorders and water problems; there is an alarming biomass and biological diversity reduction.1

Under these conditions, developing countries cannot wait any longer for the transfer to a sustainable and ecological agriculture based on a more suitable use of the local resources.

Organic agriculture, as a modern method to manage land, supposes the farm has its own resources as well as renewable resources. But a group of agronomic, economic, social and marketing constraints are identified which in turn limit the export potential of the organic products in developing countries.

Among the obstacles a grower has to overcome to turn conventional produce into organic ones are:

Growers' uncertainty (to adopt organic production systems) due to the land tenancy regime. Landholders feel uncertain to invest without guarantees of access to the land after the conversion (two to three years) when the benefits of organic production can be attained.

Difficult access to credits to implement conversion projects.

High certification costs, mainly because developing countries lack their own certifying organizations and depend upon certifiers of developed countries like Europe and the United States making commercialization costs more expensive.

Lack of knowledge and lack of training and extension capabilities for the growers to adopt organic cropping systems.

Despite the economic and environmental factors of organic agriculture, few countries have endorsed policies to support the organic sector.

Scarce institutional support and lack of capabilities to assist growers during and after production and in trading.

Lack of information to get into the market (what produce, what trading channels to use).

Inadequate logistics for sales (cooling and industrial capacities, etc.) and not enough funding.2 3 4

Therefore, it is a must to create capabilities to face these obstacles and have access to sustainable transformations that guarantee safe food for the population with the right to consume healthy foods, not for a minority, but for the great unprotected majorities.

In this context, Cuba has important experiences to share with other countries:

Transformations of the Cuban Agricultural Model to Adopt A Paradigm of Sustainable or Organic Production


In 1959, the triumph of the Cuban Revolution meant deep political, economic and social changes. In the Agricultural Sector, after an agrarian reform and re-organization of land property, the main objectives were:

To meet people's food needs.

To create new export funds.

To guarantee raw materials for the industry.

To eradicate poverty and unhealthiness in the countryside.

These changes were made to a great extent with a green revolution model as the paradigm. As a result, agriculture became very dependent on external inputs most of which came through the trade relations with socialist countries.


In the 1970s the government headed towards a low-input and more rational agriculture close to our reality. An intensive policy to replace imported raw materials was started, financial and material savings were encouraged in all sectors and emphasis was placed on economic aspects and self-sufficiency. On the other hand, research institutions re-designed its objectives and strategies towards new working programmes.


In the 1980s, research, extension and development were increased with regard to input-replacement techniques and important results were introduced in the area of biological pest control, cultural practices and biofertilizers, just to mention some examples. Late in the 1980s the country faced what came to be known as “the Special Period,” the great challenge to face food production cutting inputs to more than a half and, at the same time, maintaining exports.


The country has gone through a period of replacing imported inputs and, though synergy is still not fully exploited, there have been important solutions in the agrarian sector from the scientific and technical results introduced in commercial production and the return to traditional practises and experiences.

Main Scientific Results Enabling a Sustainable-Organic Agricultural Production in the Country

Organic fertilization and soil conservation

There are proven results in the use of different alternatives derived from available resources like manure, sugar production waste and residues from agricultural and industrial processes from which technologies to manufacture compost, earthworm humus (casting) and bioearth have been developed. The use of green manure has been generalized and biofertilizers to complement the nutritional needs of the crops have been developed.

Rhyzobium, Azotobacter and Phosphorine are applied to crops under rustic and industrial facilities. These allow for outstanding productions of these biological fertilizers partly meeting the nitrogen and phosphorous deficit of the crops and encouraging plant growth. Likewise, a vesiculo-arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus has been successfully produced and applied. It complements the activity of the rest of microbial inoculants.

Organic fertilizers production (000 tonnes)




Organic matter

2 020

2 535



1 049




Ecological solutions for pest control

One of the main challenges for the transfer to organic agriculture is the elimination of toxic agrochemicals. In this regard, the work made by the Plant Protection Institute (INISAV) and other scientific institutions of the country as well as the creation of centres for the Reproduction of Entomophagous and Entomopathogens Fungi (CREE) where a “rustic” and decentralized production of biocontrol agents is made, show the feasibility of finding ecological solutions to the attack of pest and diseases.

At present, there are 220 Centres for the Reproduction of Entomophagous and Entomopathogen Fungi (CREE), three industrial plants and a fourth one under construction for the control of pests ecologically or integrated to the use of little-aggressive chemicals to the environment. Around one million hectares, out of the five million devoted to agriculture in the country, are protected through the application of biological means. The main protected crops are vegetables, sugar cane, banana, sweet potato, cassava, potato, corn, pastures, citrus and rice.

The main production lines are: Bacillus thuringiensis, Verticillium leclanii, Metarhyzium anisopliae, Beauveria bassiana, Trichoderma haozianum, Paecilomyces lilacinus and Trichogramma spp.

The area under treatment in all these crops is close to one million hectares, a third more than two years ago.

Management technologies of crop and animal systems

Crop rotation and polycrops.

Leguminous-based systems for animal feeding.

Ecological techniques for soil tillage and conservation.

The creation of family-exploited small farms has been encouraged in which polycrops and animal husbandry are combined. Under this conception, fruit and forest farms combining forestry, cattle raising and agricultural production are developed.

Ecological techniques for soil tillage and conservation

An important action carried out during the special period was the beginning of a vast increased programme of animal use for agricultural practices and different production structures. At present, animal power is used 2.5 times more than in 1990.

On the other hand, a new plough type known as multiplough was developed before the arrival of the Special Period. From this multiplough, sophisticated technologies for a more ecological and economic tillage of higher efficiency and conservation have been devised.

The 1990s have shown scientific, technical and socio-economic results to insert ourselves in the international organic movement, not only as a response to the “special period, but as a future solution too.

Case study: citrus

Among the efforts made by the country to diversify its agriculture and generate export funds, include a comprehensive programme started in 1968, known as “National Citrus Programme,” which was conceived and carried out mainly based on the development of a scientific and technical basis according to the ambitious objectives to set up big agricultural citrus enterprises that would use advanced technologies, boost the processing sector and devise the necessary infrastructure for exports.

With this purpose and for over 20 years, substantial investments were made in development projects. Countryside communities close to the groves were built, jobs were provided to thousands of workers; middle-level students also contributed to develop this important economic item which quickly became one of the fastest growth in the agricultural sector. Lands devoted to citrus grew up rapidly reaching 115 000 net hectares in 1990, including commercial groves, young trees and developing trees. In the same year, the Citrus Programme reached a record crop of 1 017 thousand of metric tonnes of fruits. Out of this total, nearly 50 percent was exported fresh and 20 percent as juices. The remaining 30 percent was sold to the local market at a good level (more than 25 kg per capita annually).

The disappearance of the Eastern European Socialist Bloc created a difficult economic situation in the country from which citrus did not escape; the production fell sharply and marketing channels were lost.

The new situation led to a revision of the Programme and the adoption of a group of actions to guarantee the sustainability of the Programme in the new economic context.

Among the main changes are:

Reorganization of production: 60 percent of the area was transferred to cooperative members grouped in the Basic Units for Agricultural Production (97 cooperatives). The state gave the land to these cooperatives free of charge. The rest kept the structure of state farms (2).

Changing of the main destination of the crop, from fresh fruits to industrial products.

Differentiation of technologies according to fruit destination.

Opening up to foreign capital investments looking for funding sources and marketing channels.

From 1995 on, citrus started to show a comprehensive recovery in the country.

Today, citrus production is around 900 000 tonnes, twice the 1994 crop with 46 percent less area.

Technologies enabling an integrated management of the groves have been implemented by using little-aggressive chemicals and looking for a harmony with the environment (2).

Production costs have been cut in half.

Three industrial plants have been expanded and two new ones have been put into operation. At present, nearly 700 000 tonnes of fruits are for juice production.

Cuban citrus juices are sold on the world market, mainly in the European Union countries.

Distribution of Cuban Enterprises Specializing in Citrus

EVOLUTION OF FRUIT USE 1995-2001 thousand t








Total production





















Fresh fruit














Domestic market














Decision to produce organic juices

The Cuban citrus industry, once recovered, reviewed its future. This review, subjected to systematic improvement, covered all aspects of the agro-industry; markets, agricultural production, the industrial base, the export infrastructure, scientific and technical bases.

One of the decisions already taken is to foster the production of organic citrus and tropical fruits, as part of a policy to diversify production, very dependent at present on frozen concentrated juices of orange and grapefruit.

This decision made possible from 1997 on, to start some attempts to turn groves of low-input technologies into organic groves. (3)

Conversion Process to Organic Groves

In citrus productive systems, two agricultural exploitation systems with very different agro-ecological characteristics are identified: polycrops and extensive-intensive single crops.

Polycrop: production areas in the mountains

In these areas, the characteristics of the topography have defined an agricultural economy mainly dependent on coffee and other crops for the local market and family subsistence. Traditionally, it has been an agriculture which meets the requirements of organic agriculture with no or little modifications. In this area, a large quantity of intercropped citrus is produced with the rest of the crops, which can be directly certified as organic.

The main constraint is the transportation to processing plants. At present, 4 000 tonnes of grapefruit are certified and turned into 300 tonnes of frozen organic concentrate. Six thousand tonnes of grapefruits are expected to be certified. Studies to foster organic production on this basis in some of the easy-to-accede areas are underway.

Extensive-Intensive Single-crops. The Citrus Programme Groves

Among the great extensions of single-crops areas created by the National Citrus Programme in the 1970s, two situations are distinguished today: areas of low-input technologies with yields lower than ten tonnes/ha and commercial groves for export with average yields exceeding 16 tonnes/ha with groves with yields between 30 and 60 tonnes/ha.

Low-input groves without irrigation

As a result of the great losses in the conventional citrus areas mentioned above and the policy to concentrate available inputs in the best areas, many citrus groves were kept under exploitation without irrigation and chemical treatments, basically submitted to hand practices and mechanical weed control.

These groves reduced production to an average yield of five tonnes/ha and some of them showed higher yields. Such areas, at present, are easy to convert into organic production. To date some 600 ha have been certified in two enterprises with a production exceeding 3 000 tonnes of oranges. This production, as well as other new crops, have started to be intensified based on an organic technology.

The place of organic agriculture in the citrus sector could be reviewed in this dual reference context, but the complexity of turning commercial single-crop areas into organic crops of economic importance, will be the topic with which to deal.

Conversion of commercial citrus groves into organic

In single-crop systems, the use of agrochemicals and machinery have brought about a great dependence on external inputs which agricultural yields have been based on. Besides the chemical pollution implied, such dependence means to neglect traditional cultural practices that kept the primary productivity and the ecological balance. Therefore, the recovery and full performance of natural processes leading to soil productive capacity and the balance of the plant-pest-bioregulators system, among others, need continuous ecological management work, which, in the case of citrus has already begun and was enhanced during the period of chemical lack. This made possible to speed up the transit to a conscious process of transformations to organic productions (4).

In citrus, the Integrated Pest Control started 20 years ago and it can be stated that nowadays, practically no synthetic chemicals are applied to produce fruits for juice and for the local market; they are only moderately applied in the fresh fruit groves which accounts for less than five percent of the total citrus production. However, in commercial groves there is a high dependence on herbicides and chemical fertilizers.

For economic reasons, the Cuban citrus agro-industry is involved in a diversification process. The current meeting point between single and polycrops, is a promising step to such conversion: vegetable, root crops and grain areas called self-consumption plots, means an increased biodiversity and a mosaic structure favouring the ecological balance, specially in the new cooperative sector (UBPC).

Conversion of a Single-Crop Citrus Plantation into Polycrops and Organic Technology for the Production of Orange Juices

Large scale commercial grove conversion programme

In order to deal with this task, a programme covering the following items has been adopted:

1. Large-scale pilot project: to develop a large-scale pilot area and including in it known technological elements of organic agriculture and emphasizing the preparation and amendment of soils taking into consideration the organic matter content so that all the potential of the new technology can be expressed in those groves. To determine the development costs of young trees and the inputs implied. To make an economic comparison with the results of conventional single strength juices.

2. Appropriate economic incentives: to devise a price system for growers that encourages organic production and provides them with a proportional and fair share in relation to juice sale prices. To manage and support the granting of credits to set up organic citriculture in the citrus cooperative sector.

3. Organic fertilizer: the availability of organic fertilizer has been identified as the main limiting factor in the development of organic agriculture because of its use in other crops. In the initial stage, to develop the production of organic fertilizer with raw materials available in the region and in the province, so its production can be increased at the lowest possible cost. To advance quickly research on native contributions in organic exploitation towards shaping up organic production systems by making them the least dependent as possible on external organic fertilizers.

4. Selection of leguminous plants: likewise, to conduct experiments on the new problems requiring experimental methods to optimize the organic production system under our conditions. These problems are basically related to the selection of the best leguminous cover crops and the determination of the best agronomic responses to different organic fertilizers.

5. Mechanization of agricultural practices and the manufacturing of organic fertilizers in order to reduce the manpower required in organic production. Since the beginning, this factor has been looked at as one of the keys to success. Without proper productivity of manpower, it is impossible to consider the conversion on a large scale.

6. Irrigation: the main limiting factor of yields in many commercial groves is the lack of irrigation. The groves to be converted into organic should have, or be provided, with irrigation, so that this factor does not go against the programme.

7. Inspection and certification: to develop alliances with certifying entities and research centres in organic agriculture to back up the development of appropriate entities in the country.

8. Funding and marketing: the conversion of the existing groves has a high conversion cost. The market for organic produce is limited and can be quickly saturated, so the creation of economic associations is required to finance and sell organic production.

9. Correct assessment of the expected economic results: due to the nature of the problem, it is practically impossible to constrain economic assessment exclusively to the financial concerns, though this is definitive. The final result has to be analysed within a much wider context in which long-term benefits must also play a definitive role.

10. Acceptance of the new model: finally, but of major importance, is the necessity to convince, not only of the need for a change to sustainable agriculture, but also to wipe out the image among leaders and growers that organic production is a marginal one, that it is a backward technology of low yields intended for very poor countries.

On the basis of the accumulated experience, a technology for organic production of fruits for single strength juice mainly, has been defined; and it is currently under validation in a pilot project. For sure, it will be transformed and improved in a near future.

The Pilot Project at “El Carmen” Cooperative

The conversion of commercial groves into organic ones is carried out in two cooperatives and in one state farm. These projects characterize situations whose successful solutions will allow further multiplication of this type of exploitation. The process is exemplified at the Basic Unit for Cooperative Production “El Carmen”, located in the Ciego de Avila province.

The predominant crop in the region is sugar cane, covering most of the land. In sugar cane, no pesticides are used. The Cooperative's lands are adjacent to the North with Moron city and two small farms of citrus and pastures.

The Cooperative has 78 workers and 5 tractors.

Basic Unit for Cooperative Production “El Carmen”

Land use

Total area



• Oranges


Persian limes







Crops in rotation

(root crops, vegetables and grains)


Non planted area


Cattle raising






The main climatic variable of Cuba is the relationship between evaporation and rainfall. This makes it possible to distinguish three areas with marked differences (see enclosed map) an Eastern more humid and an Eastern much drier. “El Carmen” is located in the central region of the country and the relationship between evaporation and rainfall is 0,6 - 0,7 which matches the average of the country.

Cuba's annual average rainfall is 1 450 mm (in the project region it is 1 250 mm) with a well-defined rainy period from May to October. In this period, 75 percent of the total rainfall is recorded. The most intense dry period affecting citrus is from March to May. This period has scarce or no rains and coincides with maximum evaporation, the daily average in these months is from 6 to 7 mm, almost twice December's average.

Citrus usually flower in late February and March, so the lack of humidity till the beginning of the rains considerably reduces flowering and fruit-set and consequently yields. Hence, the great importance of irrigation.

The average temperature of the country and of the region is 24.5oC.

Edaphoclimatic Classification of Cuban Citrus Regions


The soils are ferralitic, coarcitic, yellow-reddish and lixiviated with a pH ranging from 5.5 to 6.0; some fields have less than 5.5.

The land is flat.

Organic fertilization

The lack of organic resources to meet the nutritional needs of the crops is identified as one of the main constraints of this project. In using existing resources, the production of food for the population has priority. The strategy for solving the nutrition of citrus and other crops at the Cooperative, is dealt with in three ways: 1) the application of biofertilizers of proven effectiveness in citrus, Azotobacter and Phosphorine (both made locally); 2) Compost and earth worm humus using as the main bases, the residues from the sugar industry; and 3) interplanting leguminous plants in citrus groves.

For “El Carmen” citrus, the sugar industry has been contracted to supply of 2 000 tonnes annually of composted sugar production waste, with an average Nitrogen content of 1.5 percent, which meets current requirements along with other actions explained further ahead.

Organic fertilizer needs for self-consumption plots at the cooperative, have been solved through the production of humus in situ. A programme to produce 500 tonnes of humus annually is expected to be accomplished to meet essentially the demands of non-citrus crops.

It must be taken into account that the sugar production waste, which is used to feed earthworms have some drawbacks as the acid pH and temperature increase cause rejection and death of the earthworms. Therefore, it was necessary to achieve the adequate management of sugar production waste, the main food used when there was not enough green manure.5 The dumping and spread of the sugar production waste in the area resulted in a fast and economic way to guarantee the presence of oxygen, achieving the homogeneity of the mixture and the lowering of the temperature uniformly. The pH control, temperature and humidity eased to make an adequate medium to develop and reproduce earthworms 2.5 times the population density per m2 and made better use of the food in the preparation of humus.


Plant growth promoting bacteria as Azotobacter are used at the rate of 40 l/ha applied to the soil and foliage, mixed with Phosphorine at 10 - 20 l/ha, respectively.

The establishment of leguminous plants and its mechanized management

So far, areas of the following species have been developed: Critorea ternatea, Sthylosantes labialis and Canavalia ensiforme. At present, other species are planted. Leguminous plants protect the soil and increase biodiversity contributing Nitrogen to the soil.

An agro-ecological constraint is identified in the quest for seed sources well adapted to the local climate and soil, so it is important to promote the use of locally-adapted resistant varieties (5).

One of the main problems faced is the establishment of these leguminous plants. Upon the certification of all the citrus area of the cooperative, it was not possible to apply more herbicides, so weeds grew up rapidly hampering considerably the establishment of leguminous species which are easier to establish through herbicide sprays. This is one of the main experiences noted. From now on, the certification of the areas must be done once leguminous plants are established.

The impossibility to plant leguminous species in the whole area, has led to manual weeding which has broken up the original manpower structure and made the conversion more expensive. The presence of grasses in the groves reduces yields because of its high competition with the trees for nutrients and moisture.

There are not enough available research data to determine which are the best leguminous species to interplant with citrus. It must be addressed further on.

Mechanized control of leguminous and grasses

The mechanized control of leguminous plants is made with a mower. The control of the areas where grasses are still present, is made with conventional choppers.


The under canopy sprinkling irrigation provides greater advantages. At present, 11 ha are under sprinkling irrigation and the rest of the area is watered by gravity.





Ácaro del moho.

Phyllocoptruta oleivora Ashm.

Hirsutella thompsonii Fisher

Ácaro chato.

Brevipalpus phoenicis (Geits).

Amblyseius spp.

Ácaro rojo.

Panonychus citri McGregor

Iphiseiodes quadripilis

Ácaro blanco

Polyphagotarsonemus latus Bank

Phytoseiulus macropilis

Ácaro de dos manchas.

Tetranychus urticae Koch

Stethorus utilis Horn.

Ácaro de Texas.

Eutetranychus banksi McGregor

Chrysopa cubana Hagen.

Ácaro de las yemas

Aceria sheldoni Ewing

Hirsutella thompsonii Fisher

Áfido pardo

Toxoptera citricida Kirk

Aphelinus sp.

Áfido negro

Toxoptera aurantii B de F

Opeytamus sp.

Áfido verde

Aphis spiraecola Patch

Cycloneda sanguínea L.

Áfido de los melones

Aphis frangulae gossypii Glov.

Leucopis sp.

Lysiphlebus testaceipes (Cress)

Scymnus roceicolleis Muls

Entomophtora sp.

Mosca prieta

Aleurocanthus woglomi Ashby

Aschersonia aleyrodis Webber

Mosca blanca alas nubladas

Dialeurodes citrifolii Morg.

Aschersonia goldiana Sacc.

Mosca blanca lanuda

Aleurothrixus floccossus Mask.

Botynella sp.

Chrysopa cubana Hagen.

Erectmocerus serius Silv

Prospaltella sp.

Delphastus pallidus Le Conte


Diaphorina citri Kuw

Hirsutella citri formis Speare

Guagua nevada

Unaspis citri Comst.

Aschersonia sp.

Guagua lomo tortuga

Toumeyella cubensis H. Y K.

Aphytis sp.

Serpeta fina

Insulaspis gloverii Pack

Aspidiotiphagus sp.

Serpeta gruesa

Cornuaspis beckii Newn

Brasema sp.

Guagua roja Antillana

Selenaspidus articulatus Morg.

Cheletogenes ornatus C.F.E

Guagua redonda de Florida

Chrysomphalus aonidum L.

Hirsutella sp.

Sphaerostilbe auranticola Petch.

Verticillium lecanii (Zimm)Viegas

Minador de la hoja de los cítricos

Phyllocnistis citrella Stainton

Chrysonotomyia sp.A

Chrysonotomyia sp.B

Zagrammosoma multilineatum

Horismenus sp.

Elasmus sp. Cirrospilus sp.

Picudo verde azul

Pachnaeus litus Ger.

Lachnopus sparsimguttatus P. Exophthalmus scalaris Boh.

Beauveria bassiana (Bals).

Cenosoma sp.

Metarhzium anisopliae (Mestch).

Brachyufens osborni

Poropoea sp.

Tetrastichus haitiensis Gohat


Integrated pest management

Integrated pest management is practised in all citrus areas using agro-ecological measures that do not surpass the damage threshold. Pest control is made on a spot basis by applying oils and copper sulphate when necessary. The main control mechanism is preserving and increasing bioregulators.7

Ecological compensation areas

In the project area, around 10 ha of ecological compensation must be established, which, along with the pasture and other crops plots, will provide for an adequate biological diversity. Most of these areas will be twofold, since they will also serve as ecological barriers at the boundaries of the project. In total, 34 km of ecological barriers, are expected to be planted.


The organization of the harvest on these new bases has been very successful. The procedure followed is to harvest the fruit when the quality parameters requested by the customer are met and in the shortest time for industrial convenience. The main parameter is ratio (total soluble solids/acid relationship). For grapefruits, it has been set between 8.0 and 8.5. From grapefruit fields, fruits with ratios from 7.5 up to 10.0 are processed by organizing the picking operation in order to have the juice ratio as uniform as possible. This effort is followed up in the factory to get a juice as much homogeneous as possible. With oranges, to provide the ratio requested, fruits with ratios of 14.5 and 20 are processed and, through an adequate harvest and processing, the required ratio is attained.

In order to harvest the fruit of the Cooperative in the shortest possible time (4 to 5 days), it is necessary to consolidate material and human resources from other cooperatives and from the Ceballos Citrus enterprise.

Industrial processing

The industrial processing is made at the Ciego de Avila processing plant where single strength juice is made. The plant is 20 km away from the Cooperative and its processing capacity is 1 200 tonnes of grapefruits and 1 000 tonnes of oranges per day. The plant produces frozen concentrated juices of orange and grapefruit, as well as single strength juice of both varieties.

The main contradiction for processing organic fruits is not to mix it with that of conventional fruits. Before processing organic fruits, all the equipment involved in the processing, storage, pasteurization, cooling and filling, must be totally cleaned by using registered systems and detergents. Likewise, it is common practise in the industrial plants to have the strict control of each batch, so the certifiers have considered that every industrial process is very satisfactory. Based on these conditions, the processing of organic fruits was organized at the beginning of the daily shifts; once its processing is finished, the shift continues with the conventional fruits. Upon completion, the whole processing line is cleaned.

A record sheet of controls made to the incoming fruit to the factory as well as during processing, is attached.

The finished product is filled in 200-litre drums according to international standards for organic single strength juices.

Cold storage and port

The finished product is stored in the cold storage of the plant until it reaches -20oC. Then, it is transferred to the Nuevitas cold storage, close to the shipping terminal.

Ground hauling, refrigerated storage, port handling and loading into refrigerated vessels is done according to international standards.

Summary of the Conventional and Organic Technologies










According to annual foliar and soil analysis made every four years

According to annual foliar and soil analysis made every four years


Mechanized application

Mechanized application



150-200 kg /ha, in two applications per year

10 t compost/ha with an average of 1.5% N


40 kg/ha of Azotobacter


Contribution of leguminous plants


50-70% of the N applied

K present in the applied compost


Phosphorine application to use the P of the soil

Phosphorine application to use the P of the soil

Zinc and Manganese

4-5 kg/year to the foliage with urea

4-5 kg to the foliage without urea



Two techniques: a) Sprinkling, b) Low volume

Preferably sprinkling to irrigate


To meet the water demand of the crop

leguminous and citrus

Pest control

Spot application of chemicals according

Spot application of chemicals according


to pest incidence

to pest incidence


Beuveria bassiana, 50 lit/ha

Beuveria bassiana, 50 lit/ha


Bacilus turingensis, 30 lit/ha

Bacilus turingensis, 30 lit/ha


Mineral oil, 30 lit/ha

Mineral oil, 30 lit/ha

Weed control

Two approved technologies:

All the area covered by leguminous plants


1) Bare soil with herbicides

Mower 2-3 times/year


2) Row middles, mower 6-8 times/year

Hand control of climbing leguminous


Under canopy cleaning, Hand herbicide applications



Annual pruning of dead twigs

Annual pruning of dead twigs


Hedging y topping when necessary

Hedging y topping when necessary



Harvest during the maturation period

Harvest in several days


Production current costs

US$100-140/t single strength juice



Processing throughout

Processing totally separated from


the maturation period

the conventional fruit


Cold storage port


Well marked and separated shipments


both in the cold storage and in the ship



current costs

US$150-180/t of juice

US$200-250/t of juice

Current costs


Totals FOB

US$250-320/t of juice

US$360-450/t of juice

Investment and Current Costs

The economic aspects of the process are the ones of most concern for every grower who must take decisions to convert to organic.

Conversion costs to organic vary a lot since they depend, to a good extent, on the conditions of each location. In the example presented, the conversion costs - once all investments are completed - are of US$2 000/ha. These costs must be recovered in no more than five to six years, so they considerably make organic production more expensive. This cost approximately accounts for half of the current costs and increases the price between US$80 and 100/t of juice.

Manpower requirements change in quantity and required periods. Organic agriculture demands more manpower, not only quantity wise, but in agro-ecological knowledge compared to the big mechanized conventional systems; however, it can turn into an important source of jobs in small rural communities.

Initially, production costs in organic plots are higher than in conventional systems; fertilization with compost and soil management (replacement of herbicides) make production costs higher. However, the use of leguminous plants and biofertilizers can considerably reduce the need to import organic products.

Yields are said to be low in organic plots. However, low-productivity ecosystems with initial low yields, have the potential for increased yields with adequate organic management.

When production is comprehensively assessed, not only the main crop, but by unity of manpower, organic productions are generally favoured.

In many cases, the conversion of conventional areas into organic requires investments in equipment to produce compost, to manage soils, among others things.

In the long term, there is a positive effect on productivity and food safety.

The adoption of organic techniques can mean a reduction of fertilizer and herbicide imports and the consequent saving of hard currency.8

Main Results in the Conversion Process First Harvest 2000-2001

Agricultural production: citrus

Oranges: 1 037 t

Grapefruits: 1 078 t

Industrial processing

Orange single strength juice: 490 000 litres.

Grapefruit single strength juice: 495 330 litres.

Prices: Approximately 40 percent over the price of the conventional juice.

Other productions

Milk: 80 l/day

Vegetables, root crops and pork meat: For the supply of approximately 100 families of cooperative members and eventual workers at the cooperative. The surplus of this production is sold in the local market of Morón.

Social impact

The results that can be achieved here are subject to the socio-economic conditions and infrastructure each country puts into organic production. In this case, the most important aspects are:

Support through research and extension services of the science and technological innovation system of the country, in particular, that of the tropical fruit-trees research institute. Feedback from the scientific sector with local experiences of farmers and growers.

Acceptance by society to produce on a sustainable basis with a paradigm of low inputs; and wherever possible, to go into organic productions both for the local market and for export.

Humanization of the work with products and equipment that are easier to handle and with less risk to human health.

Environmental impact:

Reduction of soil and water pollution by the non application of toxic chemicals.

Environmental cleaning.

Increased biodiversity.

Certification of the Production Process of Fruits and Organic Juices

The certification of organic produce is a vital aspect of the whole production and commercialization process of organic products. It means a high commercialization cost, mainly for developing countries with hardly any certifying agencies of their own and therefore has a high dependence on developed countries (6).

The main steps to guarantee the certification or organic produce are:

Instituting allowed organic production and processing practises.

Introduction of precautions that must be taken to protect the integrity of organic production and processing.

Verification that such principles are accomplished.

Approval of growers and processors and the issuing of a certificate allowing the use of organic seals for a specific production.

The standards applied in the certification of organic citrus comply with those of the EEC Rules No 2092/91 as well as with those that complement or modify it. The Cuban Standard for Organic Agriculture is being developed for some time now and must be approved by the year 2002. It will define the comprehensive basis for Cuban organic produce.

Markets and Marketing

In developing countries, two types of organic agriculture are distinguished: one for subsistence and another for the market. In the latter, growers are oriented both to the domestic and the international markets and the income they receive can contribute to improve food safety.

An available market is one of the main aspects growers take into account to decide whether to convert to organic production. Such decisions are generally associated with the future development of the farm and higher incomes.

What follows, is a group of issues to be considered during the sale and marketing of organic produce:

Developing countries have products of major interest in export markets such as coffee, tea, rice, tropical fruits, seasoning and spices. These products usually exhibit a high export potential, however, the distance of developing countries from the market is an important limitation; other limitations include the competing prices which are chiefly determined by the transportation costs and post-harvest treatments.

Ensuring the volumes and continuity of organic productions from small growers to meet the demands of importers. Sometimes, growers must associate to overcome the limitations imposed by market demands.

The prices of certified organic produce are generally higher, between 10 to 50 percent as compared to conventional products.

The commercial infrastructure for exports sometimes limits access to markets of certain products.

Quality standards are very high in certain markets and for some growers it is difficult sometimes to meet them all. The application of HACCP is a difficult barrier to overcome.

Another major factor already mentioned is the high cost of certification of organic products.

Import duties and tariffs are also another important barrier since organic products must meet the same standards as conventional ones.


1. The conversion of conventional groves to organic is technically feasible under the conditions of the Cuban citriculture. Despite the fact that the present pilot project is in its initial stage, it is possible to predict with a high degree of accuracy, that, existing problems can be overcome and finally, a conversion technology will be available to be applied to part of present-day Cuban citrus bearing groves. This experience will be valuable also for other countries of the area.

2. The inclusion of new areas depends mainly on the economic feasibility, which in turn depends on the prevalence of continuing remunerative prices for higher production costs and also high investments in the conversion. It is easy to prove that one of the main problems the project faces is the growth of market volumes at remunerative prices.

3. Cost reduction greatly depends on achieving effective mechanization of most of the agricultural operations and investments in the conversion process. It also depends on reaching higher yields in the groves.

4. In general, scientific research must validate the organic practices and especially nutritional aspects - the use of leguminous plants as cover crops, weed control and irrigation.


1. To look at the possibility of launching promotional campaigns that encourage the generic consumption of organic produce from this region in order to increase growth of the market with remunerative prices for the produce of the region. (As an example of generic promotion: Florida citrus).

2. To complement the above approach by looking at the possibilities or organizing inspection and certification regionally in order to reduce costs. Likewise, the logistics for maritime transportation and marketing channels should be considered.

“Competitiveness of Organic Vegetables in International Markets: Analysis of Two Costa Rican Cases”


Mr Pedro Cussianovich, IICA Representative in Costa Rica

This study responds to a need expressed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to understand how including environmental costs would affect the competitiveness of vegetable production in international markets. For this, it was suggested that several different methodologies previously developed by that institution be applied to the Costa Rican case.

In response to this request, the authors9 submitted a counterproposal for a study based on the competitiveness of three types of vegetables, including both organic and conventional production systems. The basis for this proposal, which was accepted, was that with a certified organic product there was a guarantee that all environmental considerations were taken into account in that certification; in other words, environmental costs were included.

Broccoli and cassava were chosen for this study because their cultivation is rather widespread and at the same time there are organic production systems for these crops.

Areas chosen for each crop were close to each other, so as to minimize possible bias due to variations in the local setting.

In the case of organic broccoli, a certified farm was chosen in the county of Alfaro Ruiz, in the province of Alajuela, where it has been grown for six years and it was compared to a conventional farm in that same county, some 20 km from the certified farm. In the case of organic cassava, a certified farm was chosen in the county of San Ramón, within the province of Alajuela; the main activity for this country is ginger production for export and cassava is planted as a crop rotation and to let the land rest from its main activity. This farm was compared to that of another producer in the county of San Carlos, roughly 30 km away. Technological packages were determined in all cases, translated into monetary terms and then the respective economic analyses were conducted.

Analyses for broccoli and cassava led to the following conclusions:

i) Organic production is more competitive in local markets than conventional production, despite higher costs of production.

ii) Organic production is more expensive than conventional production, but it is also more profitable. Profitability increases over the medium and long term.

iii) There is no reason for organic products to be more expensive than conventional products.

iv) Greater competitiveness of organic products is explained to a large extent by higher levels of productivity (production/hectare) in this activity. This productivity manifests itself through greater density of planting (plants/hectare), as in the case of broccoli, or higher yields per plant (weight/plant), as in the case of cassava. The cost of labour is not necessarily the highest cost in organic production. What is true is that organic production requires more labour than conventional production.

v) Based on the greater local market competitiveness of the organic products discussed, we may infer that organically developed products are also more competitive in international markets. However, to make this statement we assume that:

- There is a well-defined international market for these products (broccoli and cassava).

- The conventional products discussed show competitiveness in those markets.

- Post-harvest handling and processing costs are the same for organic and conventional products. This would involve the existence of post-harvest handling and processing techniques that ensure that these products can still qualify as organic and that their cost is the same or less than for conventional products.

- Transport, shipping and insurance costs are the same for organic and conventional products.

vi) Competitiveness of organic products in international markets should increase insofar as there is a well-defined market with differentiated prices.

Aside from what has already been stated and to analyze possible impacts of organic production on employment in Costa Rica's agricultural sector, a simulation was run with labour coefficients (ratio of labour required for organic versus conventional production) derived from this study. For this purpose, the lowest coefficient (broccoli: 27.7 percent) derived from this study was applied to the agricultural sector labour force. The result was that in this situation, organic production would not only be a solution to the problem of rural unemployment, but also an important alternative to address the problem of national-level unemployment, as well as an option to contain rural-urban migration.

As a concluding reflection, we must state that these findings should nevertheless be taken as reference data, because organic agriculture does not apply a “technological package” and therefore specific experiences cannot be replicated overnight. Competitiveness attained in this activity increases gradually as relations with nature are rediscovered and replicated in productive activities.

In light of what has been said, competitiveness shown for cases discussed can be matched or improved upon by other producers. This will depend on farm-management levels and especially those of soil-plant relations, as well as resources available to the producer and economies of scale which can be attained.

1 Kolmans, E.: D. Vázquez. 1999. Manual de Agricultura Ecológica. Una introducción a los principios básicos y su aplicación. C. Habana: ACTAF, 150 p.

2 Pérez H., María del C. 2000. Desafíos de la agricultura orgánica para los países en desarrollo. La experiencia cubana al alcance de todos. ACTAF.

3 IICF. 2001. Estudio de la Cadena Productiva de los Cítricos.

4 Montes, Magda, Ma. Del Carmen Pérez, A. Correa, Gladys del Vallín, Mirta Borges, E. Frómeta. 1998. Avances de la Citricultura orgánica en Cuba. CCP. CI 98/CRS.4.

5 UBPC El Carmen. Grupo Empresarial Frutícola. MINAGRI. Manejo de la Alimentación de la Lombriz de Tierra con el uso de cachaza. Agosto 2001.

6 IIC: Dpto. Prot. De Plantas. 1994. Manual de orientaciones para el manejo Fitosanitario de las principales plagas y enfermedades de los Cítricos. 21 p.

7 Vallín, Gladys del. 2000. Principios de la producción orgánica. Perspectivas en la citricultura cubana. Seminario Int. de Citricultura Integrada, Brasil.

8 Kilcher, L. Production and trade constraints upon organic products from developing countries. (FiBL) 2001.

9 Eduardo Gitli, Ph.D and Pedro Cussianovich, M.Sc.

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