Columnists Features

Ethics in crop production

FELIX TEMBO
THIS farming season will be a very critical one as there will be so many opportunities if the El Nino will hit us as predicted.
From the way the rainy season has started, it is evident that indeed some areas will be worst hit while other areas might just receive too much rain which might lead to floods.
Either of the two scenarios is detrimental to crop production and what that means is that most crop commodities will be in short supply.
I have in mind vegetables as these need regular watering. I can imagine a situation where we do not have adequate tomatoes at Lusaka’s Soweto market and a box of the produce hits K180. A farmer whose crop is about to be ready but has heard that the price of tomato is good and just sprayed some pesticides on his crop whose residual period is seven days for instance; some of the farmers that do not have ethics will be tempted to harvest the crop and ripen them artificially so that they can make money in the case of tomato scarcity.
Some will argue that there is nothing wrong the farmer has done as he/she wants to take advantage of the high prices to make money. I will on the other hand argue that such a farmers is as bad as a thief or a murderer.
Pesticides have a residual period which one must follow before harvesting. I know of some export markets such as Tesco in the UK which have strict minimal amounts of residual pesticides that can be found in food before they can be accepted.
For instance, certain pesticides should not exceed any quantity about 0.00001 percent, and anything falling above this will be rejected and suppliers risk losing supply contracts.
The reason they have such restrictions is that certain pesticides do not easily get metabolised or breakdown in our systems and what that means is that with time, they accumulate. They will not kill someone just there and then but a considerable accumulation over time if not checked may lead to health complications.
Now, who would want his or her best customer to have health problems? What this means is that one is just killing his or her market. Business that is focused on making money today without thinking of how it will be sustained is as good as dead.
It is against this background that I implore all farmers to follow strictly what is written on the label of various pesticides that they will apply. Last week, my colleague in the village lost two family members because it was suspected that they had bought vegetables that were sprayed with a pesticide which was still active on the crop.
The whole family started vomiting just after the meal and unfortunately, two of the youngest family members died.
Some online publications defined ethics as a form of applied ethics or professional ethics that examines ethical principles and moral or ethical problems that arise in a business environment. It applies to all aspects of business conduct and is relevant to the conduct of individuals and entire organisations.
Therefore, as farmers if we are not following the crop production ethics then we are not following business ethics because farming is business. Sallie Krawcheck (Global Leadership Summit), noted that ‘if it comes down to your ethics versus a job, choose ethics because you can always find a job.’
I agree with her because it takes so many years and time to gain integrity. Integrity is something that cannot be traded off with the prospect of making money just because there is a short supply of that commodity.
I found the behaviour of the farmer who sold vegetables that still had some active pesticides in it criminal and I hope he or she will be identified so that the law can take its course.
Of late, some multinational companies have done away with very good products because of the same problem of residues – that is acting responsibly.
I know of a product we used for controlling termites called Chlordane. This product is banned the same way they have done with DDT. Some organophosphates have also been discontinued in the EU and America because of the detrimental effect on the environment including people.
Therefore, as we get to the rainy season especially the period from January to March, we normally have shortages of tomato, onions and cabbages. Please let us follow crop production ethics in our various value chains.
We have to sustain the market so that we can supply even 20 years from now. Pesticides are very safe but if we are not following instructions, they can be harmful to us and the environment.
Make sure that you read the label three times before application and always indicate in your spray book the dates you sprayed your pesticides. Crop production ethics should be the norm in our businesses.
This author is an agribusiness practitioner.

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