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DIRTY PINEAPPLES FROM COSTA RICA

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By Martin Mowforth

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DIRTY PINEAPPLES FROM COSTA RICA

  1. 1. The following PowerPoint file is a presentation given by Martin Mowforth at Cambridge University on 21st February 2020 during a two-day conference on ‘Power, Promise, Politics: The Pineapple from Columbus to Del Monte’ Key words: pineapple production; monocultivation; Costa Rica; Del Monte (PINDECO); pesticide contamination; labour rights abuses; wetlands; protected areas.
  2. 2. DIRTY PINEAPPLES FROM COSTA RICA Martin Mowforth mmowforth@plymouth.ac.uk
  3. 3. My taste for pineapples began to turn a little sour in 1997 when I spent some time in the village of Longo Maï, also known as Finca Sonador, a village of Salvadoran refugees in the south of Costa Rica. The village was surrounded by pineapple fields which, although providing quite a bit of employment, also caused many problems for the residents.
  4. 4. PROBLEMS CAUSED BY PINEAPPLE PRODUCTION Land availability – affecting: land tenure of campesino population food security of campesino population social conflicts between campesino and indigenous populations Pollution by spraying – affecting: water purity people and their health long term soil quality Labour practices – affecting: health of employees the right to belong to a union Over-extraction of water – affecting: amount of water available for communities freshwater life Cultural and archeological disregard
  5. 5. In January 2000, ENCA (the Environmental Network for Central America) published an article entitled ‘Dirty Pineapples’ – based on information received from UNAPROA.
  6. 6. UNAPROA: Unión de Amigos para la Protección del Ambiente / Union of Friends for the Protection of the Environment.
  7. 7. FRENTE DE LUCHA CONTRA LA CONTAMINACION DE PINDECO Formed in 1995 to combat the pollution caused by PINDECO. Formed by: UNAPROA (Union of Friends for the Protection of the Environment) Iriria Tsochok (umbrella organisation representing indigenous groups in Costa Rica) Produces a newsletter called ‘El Picudo’ El picudo is a hardy insect that survives when all its natural predators have been eliminated by the application of chemical insecticides To the Frente, PINDECO is like el picudo – difficult to control and extremely voracious
  8. 8. PINDECO • Subsidiary of transnational agribusiness company Del Monte • Cultivates pineapples in southern Costa Rica • Back in 2000, Sainsburys used to take 30,000 pineapples per week off PINDECO
  9. 9. The ENCA article found its way to the CEO of Sainsburys, the UK supermarket chain, which takes 30,000 pineapples a week from PINDECO. As a result, Sainsburys sent a copy to PINDECO and asked for a response to the claims made in the article.
  10. 10. PINDECO immediately lashed out against UNAPROA and claimed that they were calling for a boycott of PINDECO pineapples, which was not the case. Because of the stink caused by PINDECO, the issue was front page news and headline TV news in Costa Rica for a week. Through such media coverage, it was PINDECO’s intention to turn the workers against UNAPROA, on the grounds that jobs would be threatened by a boycott.
  11. 11. Sainsburys sent a team of three to Costa Rica to investigate. They returned and reported back, but only minor changes were made to PINDECO’s operations. The major damages caused by pineapple cultivation continue to this day.
  12. 12. So PINDECO began to put up notices to show its commitment to the environment. It even gained ISO certification.
  13. 13. But practices such as this, along with aerial spraying continued.
  14. 14. Dole and Del Monte are currently the largest global suppliers of both fresh and processed pineapple, with the latter being the dominant company in Costa Rica after buying out Pindeco in 2008.
  15. 15. Dollar value of pineapple exports, 2018
  16. 16. Dollar value of pineapple exports, 2018: Share of global market
  17. 17. Table 2.XX5 Importance of Costa Rica in key European market imports of pineapples, 2008 Source: Fresh pineapples: behind the ‘boom’- Presentation for EUROBAN. Banana Link, www.bananalink.org.uk. Accessed 11/08/10. Country: Tonnes of pineapple imported: Percentage from Costa Rica: Germany 173,000 95+ United Kingdom 126,000 85 Italy 149,000 85+ France 93,000 60+
  18. 18. 1986 3,400 1996 7,500 2000 11,000 2008 42,500 2016 57,300 2017 66,300
  19. 19. Much of this rapid growth occurred as cultivation spread across Costa Rica, particularly to the north and north-east of the country.
  20. 20. From the daily La Nación, 17 July 2007
  21. 21. Since around 2007 (and possibly before), the water table in the north-east of the country has been contaminated to the extent that the government has had to provide tankers of potable water every day.
  22. 22. See ‘Poisoned Paradise’ by Jan Nimmo – 4 mins
  23. 23. In June 2006, the Rainforest Alliance launched its new standards for pineapple production: • No growth on slopes greater than 15% - to avoid erosion and water runoff problems • Pesticide spray booms must have a coloured sign • Farms must provide shelter from rain and sun for workers • Toilets must be reachable no more than 5 minutes from the fields
  24. 24. So let’s see if these guidelines have made any difference to what is happening in the pineapple fields over the last two years.
  25. 25. Using satellite data, FECON (Costa Rican Federation for the Conservation of Nature) in January this year (2020), denounced pineapple monocultivation as: • responsible for polluting the water sources of various local communities • ignoring relevant legislation relating to labour and environmental practices • responsible for the deforestation of 5,566 hectares of protected areas (particularly wetland protected areas) between 2000 and 2015.
  26. 26. The 3 protected areas affected are: • Maquenque Wildlife Refuge • Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge • Northern Frontier Corridor Refuge The data shows that 3,824 hectares within these protected areas are now planted with pineapples.
  27. 27. The same data also shows that 16,385 hectares of land classed as wetlands are now sown with pineapples. FECON notes that despite this uncontrolled expansion of pineapple cultivation, the government either looks the other way or even denies that pineapple expansion is anything of a problem.
  28. 28. FECON adds that the current Costa Rican government cut 2 billion colones (approx. $3.5 million USD) from the 2019 budget provided to SINAC (National Conservation Areas System), the organisation which tries to monitor and regulate what happens in the protected areas.
  29. 29. Meanwhile, back in the south of the country, specifically in the Térraba- Sierpe wetlands …… in 2016 SETENA authorised pineapple cultivation (by PINDECO) that would affect the wetlands area with agrochemicals.
  30. 30. The move to allow pineapple cultivation there was opposed not just by local inhabitants and Costa Rican ecologists and environmentalists but also by the Costa Rican residents ombudsman. Fortunately in December (2019) the decision was revoked by the government.
  31. 31. PROBLEMS CAUSED BY PINEAPPLE PRODUCTION Land availability – affecting: land tenure of campesino population food security of campesino population social conflicts between campesino and indigenous populations Pollution by spraying – affecting: water purity people and their health long term soil quality Labour practices – affecting: health of employees the right to belong to a union Over-extraction of water – affecting: amount of water available for communities freshwater life Cultural and archeological disregard

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