“Pineapple Republic”

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The pineapple industry and the Government owe Costa Rican society explanations

No other activity is as profitable as pineapple production – mining the soil, worker exploitation and pollution.  It generated $743 million in sales in 2011 and employs 20,000 people.  The question which must be asked is: where does this wealth go? How much tax is paid, and who is bearing the impacts and indirect consequences?

Where does the wealth go?  For every Euro paid in Europe in buying pineapples, plantation workers receive only 4 cents, whilst traders, plantation owners and multinationals take the remaining 96 cents (Consumers International , 2010).

Unlike the banana industry, pineapple production does not contribute specific taxes to the State or local council (Laws 5519, 5515, 7313). However, local councils do have to repair roads and provide basic services for them.

This is what informsPococí Town Council’s policy prohibiting the creation of new pineapple plantations in the canton: "pineapple producing activity has created a significant reduction in local government revenue, because this activity does not pay the export tax banana companies pay, which amounts to reducing the resources earmarked by the council for their development policies”, states  the document “Prohibition of pineapple expansion”  (La Gaceta, 27/04/2012).

Employment and development. According to Pococí Town Council, unemployment and economic problems have increased because the pineapple industry is less labour-intensive than banana production.

In the case of Buenos Aires de Puntarenas, with over 30 years’ presence of PINDECO [Pineapple Development Corporation/Del Monte], the canton has a poverty rate of 40.4% (State of the Nation, 2005), ranks 74th of 81 in the social development index (Census, 2000), 77th in the canton’s human poverty index (IPHC) and occupied the 74th position in the Human Development Index in 2009 (UNDP, UCR 2011). PINDECO is the largest employer in the canton (SENDER, 2006).
Some pineapple businesses persistently fail to keep up their Social Security payments.  As of 30 May this year, thirteen

companies affiliated to the National Chamber of Pineapple Producers and Exporters (CANAPEP) owed over ¢350 million, according to the online system of the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS).  If employment is the means of distributing wealth, we must ask how many of the 20,000 employees are actually covered and contributing to the social security system and how much of the pineapple industry’s wealth will never be shared in this way.

Wide ranging impacts.  What we will see for decades and several generations are the consequences of pollution from pesticides.  Contaminated residue has already been found in homes, churches, schools and even the mattresses in people’s homes in Cartagena de Guácimo (Solano, Thesis, UNA, 2007).  As many as seven pesticides have been found in the hair, limbs and mouths of a group of sloths on a farm in Pueblo Nuevo de Guácimo. (Pinnock, Thesis, UNED, 2010).

Contamination was found in surface water and soil on the Tico Verde farm in La Perla de Guácimo (Vargas, UCR, 2010), in groundwater in 10% of the wells sampled in El Caribe (Ruepert, UNA, 2004).  Contaminated drinking water was found in the areas of Cairo, Milano, Luisiana and La Francia de Siquirres, especially with the herbicide bromacil (banned in Europe), used in pineapple cultivation.  These communities have been receiving water supplied from tankers for more than four years through A&A (the National Institute for Aqueducts and Canalisation)

In the Jimenez river basin eight different agrochemicals were found, some of them having a high to extreme level of toxicity (Echeverría et al., UNA, 2010). All these chemicals will flow into the sea where they have been found in water and sediment in the estuaries of El Caribe (UCR et al., Research, 2009). Added to this is the large-scale loss of livestock caused by insects which reproduce in large numbers due to mismanagement (obvious lack of investment) of pineapple waste. Hundreds of local producers have had to sell up their land cheaply to large pineapple companies, with the loss of their principal livelihood.

The pineapple sector and the Government have many questions to answer to the Costa Rican society.  To continue expanding this activity without answering them will turn us increasingly into a "pineapple republic", a new version of the infamous "banana republic" which still casts its shadow over us from the past.

For years we have known the implications of expanding pineapple cultivation, its impacts on local populations and the price the whole country pays so that a very few benefit financially.

It is time to demand answers, solutions and a moratorium on the uncontrolled expansion of the pineapple industry.

Fabian Pacheco and Mauricio Álvarez , Agro-Biologist, INA Geography professor, UCR professor 16/08/2012