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Brenes L.,AgriVita S.A. | Piedra B.,Fundacion PROAGROIN ZN | Blanco R.,Fundacion PROAGROIN ZN | Salazar D.,Fundacion PROAGROIN ZN | And 2 more authors.
Acta Horticulturae | Year: 2011

The Costa Rican Northern Region Agroindustrial Program (Programa Agroindustrial de la Zona Norte) - PROAGROIN - established in 1997, pursues the development of one of the poorest regions of Costa Rica through the promotion of a sustainable agricultural production. This area comprises 12,000 km 2 mainly represented by Holdridge's humid and very humid tropical forest. Predominant soils are Ultisols and Inceptisols, showing poor chemical fertility, low in bases, with pH ranging between 4 and 5.5, and severe phosphate deficiency. 9% of the Costa Rican economically active population lives in this area. The families that have joined PROAGROIN have an average of 5 members, and annual family income between US$ 2500 and 8000 of which more than half originate in the farm. The small grower has been integrated as the main actor thanks to an approach that merges financial support, technical assistance, quality assurance and international marketing of value added products. The production of Fair Trade certified pineapple and its export to the North American and European markets has been one of the ways to promote this development with an average annual export of 1,400,000 boxes in 1000 containers (16-20 tons each). The production of not only Fair Trade and Global Gap certified pineapple but organic pineapple was foreseen in 2005 as the next tool for entering markets and promotion. The financial analysis showed it was economically viable and the first three years of implementation have proven its agronomical viability, with average yields of 65-70 t/ha. To date, the production of 102 ha has been financed through 14 months loans with a total investment of ¢ 1544 millions (Costarican colones, equivalent to approximately US$ 2.6 millions) with a projected profit, after financial and operation costs, between 5 and 30% of the amount invested. During the first year the main limiting factors at the field level were identified. The first factor was related to available nitrogen sources, their mineralization and their adequate synchronization with plant uptake, all needing to be further adjusted. The second factor identified was phytosanitary management, particularly regarding root rot and mealy bugs. The third limiting area identified was postharvest losses. All these areas are addressed through cooperation with university researchers, farmers and the private sector. In the case of postharvest management, the main market complaints focused on the presence of mold in the fruit peduncle cut. On-going research activities to address this issue include fruit sanitization, fruit waxing, peduncle postharvest treatment, and general cleaning and sanitization of equipment and storage areas. An important challenge is the search for postharvest management alternatives that need to be done taking into consideration the organic certification standards which limit the options. These standards include the national regulation, the USDA Final Rule (7CFR205) and the European Regulation 834/2007 and 889/2008. The use of natural products and other GRAS products shows great potential and deserves further investigation.

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