In July, the local authority of the Los Chiles district in Northern Costa Rica, voted a five-year moratorium on new pineapple farms. During the five-year period the council will conduct studies on the impact of monoculture pineapple production on the district’s water resources, as well as on local biological diversity and on social development.
The unanimous vote came after a long campaign by local people affected by the negative impacts of the rapid pineapple expansion. The local campaign had mobilised support from environmental organisations and the trade union SITRAP, some of whose members work in the industry. A study by one of the pineapple companies (Agroindustrial La Lydia), published the previous week, concluded that there was indeed pollution of the district’s groundwater. This study, coupled with the presence of “stable flies” that breed in pineapple residues (and then feed on cattle), were two of the decisive factors in the vote.
Livestock farmer Alvaro Quesada told the press that « We can’t farm peacefully here anymore; the losses are enormous. The cattle that we produce for meat lose weight and milk production has gone down. I hope that how we have this moratorium something can be done ».
The groundwater study in nearby Pital de San Carlos - and presented to the National Environmental Court - showed the presence of agrochemicals Bromacyl, Diuron y Terbaciyl, all of which are used in pineapple production. Other studies will be conducted to examine the problem of soil erosion.
As long ago as 2009, the Council of the University of Costa Rica, at the instigation of the late trade unionist and environmentalist, Carlos Arguedas, had urged the national government and the 12 municipalities with production of export pineapples to issue a moratorium until proper scientific studies on the environment and people’s health had been undertaken.
The chair of the Pineapple Industry Body CANAPEP, Abel Chaves, warned that this decision was a threat to employment and that the industry should not be made the scapegoat for all ills. He also stated, in relation to farmers’ complaints about the stable flies that there are other diseases which could account for the same symptoms: “We are not evading our responsibilities, we have programmes promoting good practices.”
Sources : Diario Extra, San José, 6th July ; elmundo.cr ; Semanario Universidad, 14/02/2009.