As you all must know, Sinaloa farmers have always characterized for being leaders in produce farming and exports. As we said a couple of weeks ago in this very same column, the use of technology has made an enormous advance in the last century, increasing quality and flavor in produce. Other than the performances per hectare, which increased by up to 7 times in some crops, it should be noted that this evolution has occurred not only in producing more and better, but also in producing healthier, with higher food safety and greater social responsibility. Sinaloa farmers are leaders in proper compliance with food safety criteria of the most awarded certificates in the world, such as PrimusGFS, SQF, GlobalG.A.P. and SRRC (SENASICA). In the same manner, over time, they have formalized their practices in social responsibility, providing decent housing, fair wages and unique working conditions in Mexico for collaborators in the field. All of the above practices were formalized with certificates such as SMETA, DEALTI and CEAR.
Now, there is another area which cannot go unnoticed: Sustainability. If we see the definition in the dictionary, it will take us to the word “sustainable”, defined as: “Especially in ecology and economy, something which can be maintained for a long time without depleting resources or causing serious harm to the environment”. Then, we see two essential concepts being applied to the field within this definition: ecology and economy. Of course, this is a key principle of ecology: reducing pollution, regulating and reducing the use of agrochemicals, taking care of water use and other resources. On the other hand, in terms of economy, the purpose is having a profitable business, which allows growing and providing a return to investors, as well as better labor conditions and benefits for all employees. This is how true sustainability is achieved. It is a win-win situation for economy, society and the environment.
In terms of economy, farming companies have been profitable in Sinaloa. This does not mean that they have not faced challenges and have had complicated years, but they have been able to organize and invest for cost reduction; as well as seeking marketing strategies, allowing them to reduce middlemen and obtain better profit returns for their tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.
Also, it can be seen how part of these returns are being reinvested in their fields and collaborators. Thousands of field workers have access to decent housing at no cost, salaries above the minimum wage, education and daycare facilities, activities for personal growth for them and their children, doctor’s offices within the facilities, sports and leisure areas, cultural events and holiday celebrations. All these in addition to full compliance with the regulations in terms of benefits and social security.
In addition to the particular effort of each farmer, many of them, by organizations such as CAADES and other associations; they have started initiatives to improve the communities adjacent to their fields. This could be illustrated with proactive projects for districts such as Villa Juárez, La Palma, and others.
The third item defining sustainability refers to the care for the environment. At this point, the farming sector has also made great progress. First of all, with the use of drip irrigation, water waste was considerably reduced. From watering in rolls to watering with small drippers, it also made the use of water more efficient. Farmers give plants the water they need, whenever they need it. Also, fertilizers are used efficiently. Ironically, giving less water, but in a more controlled manner, increased yields in the 90s by up to 100% (when the use of this technology started in Sinaloa).
Also, in the last 10 years, the use of bio-insecticides and bio-fungicides has grown considerably. That is, the reduction in the use of agrochemicals and the increase in the use of very effective biological elements, without harm to the environment. These could be defined as living organisms (bacteria, fungi) or substances present in plants themselves, which eliminate harmful insects and fungi. For example, we could say garlic can be used as an effective bio-insecticide against worms, trips, aphids, and others. Although the use of these is increasingly common, there is still a need for more research and development of them here in Mexico, as most of them are imported from countries such as Spain.
We could not possibly stop mentioning the integrated use of pests as a tool to control insects infecting crops with pests and viruses. Basically, this is nothing more than the incorporation of beneficial insects to the crop which “eat” the bad ones. For example, the use of little wasps to control the virulent whitefly. It should be noted that, both for bio-insecticides and for integrated pest management, there are first-level products in the market of these, ensuring their supply in volume and quality.
The increasing amount of awareness on sustainable management of farming production is now a reality. For sure, it will not take long for marketers to demand certificates approving these practices in Sinaloa farming companies; and although there is always room for improvement, I have no doubts about it: We are ready.
By: Georgius Gotsis
CEO – Eleven Rivers Growers