Horticultural produce and processed products are facing increasing domestic and international demand. The expansion of markets and the liberalisation of trade policies are providing new opportunities for rural people to escape poverty through production and exchange of non-staple crops. However, due to the limited attention that public research institutions have given to horticultural crops, yield increases in cereals have outstripped yield increases in horticultural crops. This paper highlights the growing importance of fruit and vegetable production and how these crops can contribute to poverty alleviation and economic development. The paper starts by describing the recent global trends in fruit and vegetable production and international trade. Then, the author identifies the following reasons that make fruit and vegetable production lucrative:
it is highly profitable
it generates additional labour-intensive employment opportunities in rural areas for a more equitable growth
since horticultural producers are better integrated into markets, their production contributes to commercialisation of the rural economy, which is characterised by increased trade and marketing.
The authors also call for increased funding for horticulture R&D and describe the following R&D activities to help resource-poor farmers to take advantage of expanding opportunities in horticulture production and marketing:
safe and environmentally friendly production
horticultural systems development including enabling market institutions that provide farmers with timely price information and access to credit, post-harvest facilities and technologies, and a functioning seed market are important components of enhancing the domestic supply of horticultural produce
horticultural production in the peri-urban environment to respond to increasing urbanisation and the need to feed their population.
Finally, the authors suggests that policy makers turn their attention to the creation of an enabling environment that will allow farmers to compete with their products on a world market increasingly determined by quality standards and phytosanitary concerns.