Dasheen is a widely grown crop across St Vincent and the Grenadines, important to the local diet and valued as a commodity with high export potential. Production for 2017, 2018 and 2019 was 11.9, 12.6 and 11.5 million pounds respectively. In 2017, 6.27 million pounds were exported, which valued EC$ $4.8 million (Ministry of Agriculture Forestry, Fisheries, Rural Transformation Industry and Labour (MAFFRTIL)).
In early 2020, a shipment of dasheen originating from St Vincent and the Grenadines was impounded by European authorities for exceeding the recommended Maximum Residue Level (MRL) of the chemical Metalaxyl. Metalaxyl based chemicals such as Ridomil Gold® are approved for post-harvest treatments of root crops, including dasheen, to preserve them against fungal rots during shipping and storage in the destination country.
To restart export, authorities requested that dasheen be treated based on recommended guidelines and samples tested by an accredited pesticide residue testing laboratory. The Eastern Caribbean Trading Agriculture and Development Organisation (ECTAD) sought technical assistance from CARDI and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Rural Transformation Industry and Labour (MAFFRTIL) to rectify this situation, which directly impacted the livelihoods of hundreds of farmers.
In September, CARDI Scientist Gregory Linton and officials from MAFFRTIL demonstrated the recommended treatment procedures and necessary precautions to packhouse workers, assisted with the identification of an accredited lab to do pesticide residue testing and also trialled the use of a new, locally-produced lime sulphur base organic treatment.
Following these interventions, the first shipment of dasheen arrived in the United Kingdom in November and pesticide residue tests, performed by Concept Life Sciences Analytical & Development Lab, showed that no metalaxyl residues were detected.
Both treatments were effective in preserving the dasheen for the long trip across the Atlantic and in storage in distribution centres.
This resulted in 800 boxes of dasheen being exported to France and the United Kingdom in December– generating a guaranteed source of income for 300 farmers and farm families.