Costa Rica’s pineapple production continued to grow last year, with exports reaching $299 million, representing a 17% increase over 2004. Pineapple competes with coffee for the number-two spot on the list of agricultural exports and last year Costa Rica became the number-one exporter of fresh pineapple in the world, with more than half going to the United States.
More than 850 small- and medium-sized farmers grow pineapple on 25,000 hectares and approximately 60 large companies – dominated by Del Monte and Dole – are dedicated to the fruit’s export, according to the Ministry of Agriculture’s national pineapple program.
Pineapple production has been steadily increasing for the past five years. Exports grossed $257 million in 2004 and $121 million in 2000.
While the industry has seen great growth, it has not been without criticism.
Environmentalists decry plantations they say are poisoning water sources and breeding swarms of blood-sucking flies that harm cattle, while workers’ unions complain of harassment by strong-arm owners (TT, Oct. 14, 2005). Complaints also have been lodged from inside the industry of lack of infrastructure – roads and ports – and saturation of the market that could lead to price drops.
To continue thriving, the sector needs to be better regulated and evaluated, according to Alexis Quesada, manager of the ministry’s pineapple program. Production costs, quality of materials and drainage and fertilization methods should also be reviewed.
Increasing the growth of organic pineapple and improving farmer-exporter relations should also be high on the country’s list of objectives, Quesada said.