Costa Rica, among the happiest and most eco-friendly countries in the world, could be considered an oasis of peace in Central America. It is also known as the largest producer and exporter of pineapples in the world. Finding markets in developed countries, such as in the US and EU, has allowed the industry to grow from near nonexistence in the 1970s to surpass bananas to become the largest export crop in Costa Rica—bringing in approximately $800 million in foreign currency. Sweet Costa Rican pineapples, however, have left behind a sour aftertaste.
Increases in global demand pressure farmers to increase productivity. To maintain high yields and quality, the pineapple industry has depended on agrochemicals. Yields have soared, but demand continues to outpace supply. Rising producer prices have incentivized farmers, mostly on plantations, to plant even more pineapples. The pineapple industry has left much to be desired in its quest for better yields and low labor costs.
Excessive use of agrochemicals—some very toxic to humans—over large areas has devastated communities. Water pollution has led affected areas to rely on trucked-in water since 2007. Low wages, unsafe working conditions, and a disregard for workers’ rights have created a disgruntled workforce.
Adding to Costa Rica’s woes, consumers are increasingly aware of how and where their food is produced. With communities contending with excessive pollution and workers rights violations, the once-promising industry could be on a road to ruin.
Rising demand has made pineapple production progressively more lucrative in Costa Rica. Farmers ripped out a diverse ecosystem to plant more pineapples for investors. Without the vigorous application of chemical pesticides and herbicides, the industry may never have flourished.
The humid Atlantic region of Costa Rica, where most of the pineapple plantations are located, breeds swarms of fruit-loving pests. Farmers have turned to pesticides to prevent the destruction of their valuable crop. While data inconsistencies in the mid-1980s leads to some ambiguity, it's clear pineapple production soared during that period well beyond previous yields in the 1960s and 1970s.
Agrochemical usage is rampant in Costa Rica, and the country is the top user of them for its size in the world. Costa Rica’s National Institute of Toxic Substances says the country uses about 18.2 kg of agrochemicals per hectare. China ranks second at 17 kg of pesticide per hectare. Pesticide use in Costa Rica has declined since increasing threefold from 8.2 to 25.8 kg per hectare from 1997 to 2006, but its top crops are still quite dependent on agrochemicals. Bananas use 49 kg per hectare of pesticides while pineapples use 30 kg per hectare. Costa Rica’s foreign trade statistics show that between 2012 and 2016, import volume of herbicides grew by 14 percent.
More concerning is the type of pesticides used by the pineapple industry, including Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs). The compound paraquat, used in pineapple farming, is banned in the EU because of high toxicity and has been recently linked to increased rates of Parkinson’s disease. In Costa Rica’s pineapple plantations, paraquat is used to dry-rot pineapple cones allowing the biomass to be recycled. Although some of the largest players in the pineapple industry implemented a phase-out program for paraquat, that does not reduce the cumulative harm already caused by HHPs.
Costa Rica has a tropical climate with high rainfall. Pineapple plantations are located in the areas that receive the most rain. Pesticides and other agrochemicals dissolve in rainwater, and runoff ends up in aquifers, rendering the water undrinkable. Since 2007, the communities of El Cairo and Milano, near Siquirres in Limón Province, have had to rely on water deliveries. The residue level of the herbicide bromacil found in underground water reservoirs was about 20 times that permitted by the EU.
Pineapple plantations require a large manual workforce. In addition to farmers, more workers are needed for preparation and packaging of pineapples for the fresh market on-site. With retailers sometimes engaging in price wars, plantations have found ways to reduce costs while improving productivity at the expense of workers. Low wages and rights violations have kept costs low while forcing workers to work longer hours. A great deal for the plantations comes at a high cost for countless workers, some of whom are immigrants without work authorization and under constant threat of deportation.
Low unionization levels further limit the abilities of workers to improve safety or wages. Before the mid-1980s, pineapple plantations were still in their infancy and banana plantations had unionization levels over 80 percent. Trade unions representing workers of banana plantations defended their members against increases in work hours and unfair remuneration. Trade unions called a strike in 1980 to defend members’ rights.
Banana companies alleged trade unions were making unrealistic demands. Unions refused to budge. The standstill lasted until 1984 when confrontations became violent. The strike ended in a deadlock, and could be seen as the start of the fall of unionization within plantations and the rise of the Solidarismo Association.
Reduced productivity from exhausted Pacific Coast land forced the industry to move to the Atlantic Coast. Owners used the opportunity presented by relocation to force negative changes in their relations with their labor. The solidarismo movement emerged, which is akin to union busting in Costa Rica.
Through the new solidarismo movement, workers elect representatives who negotiate on their behalf. Workers also get to contribute 3-to-5 percent of their incomes—matched by their employers—to a common fund. Workers, in theory, have access to these funds in the form of loans. The arrangement requires workers to sign direct agreements with employers, which renders workers powerless in negotiating for better pay or improved working conditions. Plantations use the threat of massive layoffs to further limit the power of workers.
Owners won’t rehire workers after telling them they will be retained, for example. Layoffs can be used to get rid of sick, aged, or unionized workers so owners can hire new workers for lower wages. Workers are frequently exposed to toxic chemicals for long periods of time while performing backbreaking work—bending over to tend to low pineapple plants—without a system to file complaints. Workers often have to eat their lunch meals within the plantation over concerns they won’t be rehired.
Unsatisfied workers may actually be costing the industry in the form of lost pineapples. Among the top producers, Costa Rica loses the second-largest amount of pineapples annually, behind only Brazil. In 2013, 18 percent of pineapples produced in Costa Rica were lost. During the same period, Brazil lost 19.8 percent, Thailand lost 5.3 percent, and the Philippines lost 5 percent. Brazil, like Costa Rica, has workers who earn poverty wages while working in harsh conditions. In fact, immigrant workers in Brazil are paid below minimum wage. These practices by the pineapple industry may be reducing the appetite for the fruit within the country. While GDP per capita in Costa Rica grew by 303 percent between 1992 and 2013, consumption per capita of pineapples in Costa Rica fell by 17 percent.
Instead of squeezing the workforce even more, the industry could try to capture more of the entire value chain. Most of the pineapple produced in Costa Rica is either consumed locally or exported without further processing. An improved processing infrastructure could add value locally to the country’s exports. Other top producers export more processed pineapples, which makes the fruit even more valuable. Compared to Thailand, Costa Rica earns just 62 percent more money, while exporting 247 percent more in terms of weight. The Philippines and Thailand lead in terms of exports of canned pineapples. By trading exclusively in fresh pineapples, Costa Rica is missing out on more profit from highly-priced processed pineapples while simultaneously exposing itself to the physical loss of pineapples across the value chain.
When price wars happen, Costa Rica pays dearly for it through the environmental and social costs of pineapple farming. Without a proper way to distinguish, or price-differentiate, sustainably grown pineapples, farmers have insufficient incentive to change their practices. For example, farmers can choose to wait for pineapples to rot naturally before replanting or they could use paraquat to boost the rate of decay, productivity, and profit.
Pineapple is a very important crop to Costa Rica in terms of foreign currency and employment opportunities. Environmentally unfriendly production practices, disgruntled communities, and unsatisfied workers partially offset the benefits of pineapple cultivation. A new wave of activism has been directed against pineapple plantations and other unsustainable crops. If deteriorating labor relations and rampant environmental pollution are not addressed, the industry will suffer further.
To consumers, who seem to be shopping with their consciences along with their wallets these days, Costa Rican pineapples are an increasingly rotten deal. Pressure is mounting for a tariff classification system that allows consumers and traders to trace where their products are coming from, and to vote with their pocketbooks on better production practices. Countries reliant on farming and plantation sectors describe such a classification system as a technical barrier to trade, but consumer forces may impose one regardless of producers’ wishes.
Receive our research in your inbox
Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter!
What Information Do We Collect?
The information we gather enables us to personalize, improve and continue to operate the Services. We collect the following types of information from our users.
IP Address Information and Other Information Collected Automatically:
· We automatically receive and record information from your web browser when you interact with the Services, including your IP address and cookie information. This information is used for fighting spam/malware and also to facilitate collection of data concerning your interaction with the Services (e.g., what links you have clicked on).
· Generally, the Services automatically collect usage information, such as the number and frequency of visitors to the Site. We may use this data in aggregate form, that is, as a statistical measure, but not in a manner that would identify you personally. This type of aggregate data enables us and third parties authorized by us to figure out how often individuals use parts of the Services so that we can analyze and improve them.
Information Collected Using Cookies:
· Most browsers have an option for turning off the cookie feature, which will prevent your browser from accepting new cookies, as well as (depending on the sophistication of your browser software) allowing you to decide on acceptance of each new cookie in a variety of ways.
We collect statistical information about how users collectively use the Services (“Aggregate Information”). Some of this information may be derived from Personal Information. This statistical information is not Personal Information and cannot be tied back to you or your web browser.
How, and With Whom, Is My Information Shared?
IP Address Information:
Information You Elect to Share:
We share Aggregate Information with our partners, service providers and other persons with whom we conduct business. We share this type of statistical data so that our partners can understand how and how often people use our Services and their services or websites, which facilitates improving both their services and how our Services interface with them. In addition, these third parties may share with us non-private, aggregated or otherwise non Personal Information about you that they have independently developed or acquired.
Information Shared with Our Agents:
We employ and contract with people and other entities that perform certain tasks on our behalf and who are under our control (our “Agents”). We may need to share Personal Information with our Agents in order to provide products or services to you. Unless we tell you differently, our Agents do not have any right to use Personal Information or other information we share with them beyond what is necessary to assist us. You hereby consent to our sharing of Personal Information with our Agents.
Information Disclosed Pursuant to Business Transfers:
In some cases, we may choose to buy or sell assets. In these types of transactions, user information is typically one of the transferred business assets. Moreover, if we, or substantially all of our assets, were acquired, or if we go out of business or enter bankruptcy, user information would be one of the assets that is transferred or acquired by a third party. You acknowledge that such transfers may occur, and that any acquirer of us or our assets may continue to use your Personal Information as set forth in this policy.
Information Disclosed for Our Protection and the Protection of Others:
Information We Share With Your Consent:
Except as set forth above, you will be notified when your Personal Information may be shared with third parties, and will be able to prevent the sharing of this information.
Is Information About Me Secure?
We store all of our information, including your IP address information, using industry-standard techniques. We do not guarantee or warrant that such techniques will prevent unauthorized access to information about you that we store, Personal Information or otherwise.
What Information of Mine Can I Access?
You can access and delete cookies through your web browser settings.
California Privacy Rights: Under California Civil Code sections 1798.83-1798.84, California residents are entitled to ask us for a notice identifying the categories of personal customer information which we share with our affiliates and/or third parties for marketing purposes, and providing contact information for such affiliates and/or third parties. If you are a California resident and would like a copy of this notice, please submit a written request to the following address: 12 E 49th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10017
What If I Have Questions or Concerns?
If you have any questions or concerns regarding privacy using the Services, please send us a detailed message to email@example.com. We will make every effort to resolve your concerns.
Effective Date: March 11, 2014
b. You shall not (directly or indirectly):i. take any action that imposes or may impose (as determined by us in our sole discretion) an unreasonable or disproportionately large load on our (or our third party providers’) infrastructure;ii. interfere or attempt to interfere with the proper working of the Services or any activities conducted on the Services;iii. bypass, circumvent or attempt to bypass or circumvent any measures we may use to prevent or restrict access to the Services (or other accounts, computer systems or networks connected to the Services);iv. use manual or automated software, devices, or other processes to “crawl” or “spider” any page of the Site;
v. harvest or scrape any Content from the Services;
vi. otherwise take any action in violation of our guidelines and policies;vii. decipher, decompile, disassemble, reverse engineer or otherwise attempt to derive any source code or underlying ideas or algorithms of any part of the Services (including without limitation any application), except to the limited extent applicable laws specifically prohibit such restriction;viii. modify, translate, or otherwise create derivative works of any part of the Services; orix. copy, rent, lease, distribute, or otherwise transfer any of the rights that you receive hereunder.c. We also reserve the right to access, read, preserve, and disclose any information as we reasonably believe is necessary to:i. satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or governmental request;ii. enforce these Terms of Service, including investigation of potential violations hereof;
iii. detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security or technical issues;
iv. respond to user support requests; or
v. protect the rights, property or safety of us, our users and the public.4. Third Party Services. The Services may permit you to link to other websites, services or resources on the Internet, and other websites, services or resources may contain links to the Services. When you access third party resources on the Internet, you do so at your own risk. These other resources are not under our control, and you acknowledge that we are not responsible or liable for the content, functions, accuracy, legality, appropriateness or any other aspect of such websites or resources. The inclusion of any such link does not imply our endorsement or any association between us and their operators. You further acknowledge and agree that we shall not be responsible or liable, directly or indirectly, for any damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused by or in connection with the use of or reliance on any such content, goods or services available on or through any such website or resource.5. Termination. We may terminate your access to all or any part of the Services at any time, with or without cause, with or without notice, effective immediately. All provisions of these Terms of Service which by their nature should survive termination shall survive termination, including, without limitation, ownership provisions, warranty disclaimers, indemnity and limitations of liability.6. Warranty Disclaimer.a. You release us from all liability for you having acquired or not acquired Content through the Services. We make no representations concerning any Content contained in or accessed through the Services, and we will not be responsible or liable for the accuracy, copyright compliance, or legality of material or Content contained in or accessed through the Services.b. THE SERVICES AND CONTENT ARE PROVIDED “AS IS”, “AS AVAILABLE” AND WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF TITLE, NON-INFRINGEMENT, MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, AND ANY WARRANTIES IMPLIED BY ANY COURSE OF PERFORMANCE OR USAGE OF TRADE, ALL OF WHICH ARE EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMED. WE, AND OUR DIRECTORS, EMPLOYEES, AGENTS, SUPPLIERS, PARTNERS AND CONTENT PROVIDERS DO NOT WARRANT THAT: (I) THE SERVICES WILL BE SECURE OR AVAILABLE AT ANY PARTICULAR TIME OR LOCATION; (II) ANY DEFECTS OR ERRORS WILL BE CORRECTED; (III) ANY CONTENT AVAILABLE AT OR THROUGH THE SERVICES IS FREE OF VIRUSES OR OTHER HARMFUL COMPONENTS; OR (IV) THE RESULTS OF USING THE SERVICES WILL MEET YOUR REQUIREMENTS.7. Limitation of Liability. IN NO EVENT SHALL WE, NOR OUR DIRECTORS, EMPLOYEES, AGENTS, PARTNERS, SUPPLIERS OR CONTENT PROVIDERS, BE LIABLE UNDER CONTRACT, TORT, STRICT LIABILITY, NEGLIGENCE OR ANY OTHER LEGAL OR EQUITABLE THEORY WITH RESPECT TO THE SERVICES FOR ANY (I) LOST PROFITS, DATA LOSS, COST OF PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES, OR SPECIAL, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, PUNITIVE, COMPENSATORY OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES OF ANY KIND WHATSOEVER, SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES (HOWEVER ARISING), (II) BUGS, VIRUSES, TROJAN HORSES, OR THE LIKE (REGARDLESS OF THE SOURCE OF ORIGINATION), OR (III) DIRECT DAMAGES IN EXCESS OF $50.00.8. Governing Law and Jurisdiction. These Terms of Service shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of New York, including its conflicts of law rules, and the United States of America. You agree that any dispute arising from or relating to the subject matter of these Terms of Service shall be governed by the exclusive jurisdiction and venue of the state and Federal courts of New York County, New York.9. Miscellaneous.a. Modification. We reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to modify or replace any of these Terms of Service, or change, suspend, or discontinue the Services at any time. Your continued use of the Services following notification of any changes to these Terms of Service constitutes acceptance of those changes.b. Entire Agreement and Severability. These Terms of Service are the entire agreement between you and us with respect to the Services, including use of the Site, and supersede all prior or contemporaneous communications and proposals (whether oral, written or electronic) between you and us with respect to the Services. If any provision of these Terms of Service is found to be unenforceable or invalid, that provision will be limited or eliminated to the minimum extent necessary so that these Terms of Service will otherwise remain in full force and effect and enforceable. The failure of either party to exercise in any respect any right provided for herein shall not be deemed a waiver of any further rights hereunderc. Force Majeure. We shall not be liable for any failure to perform our obligations hereunder where such failure results from any cause beyond our reasonable control, including, without limitation, mechanical, electronic or communications failure or degradation.d. Assignment. These Terms of Service are personal to you, and are not assignable, transferable or sublicensable by you except with our prior written consent. We may assign, transfer or delegate any of our rights and obligations hereunder without consent.e. Agency. No agency, partnership, joint venture, or employment relationship is created as a result of these Terms of Service and neither party has any authority of any kind to bind the other in any respect.f. Notices. Unless otherwise specified in these Term of Service, all notices under these Terms of Service will be in writing and will be deemed to have been duly given when received, if personally delivered or sent by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested; when receipt is electronically confirmed, if transmitted by facsimile or e-mail; or the day after it is sent, if sent for next day delivery by recognized overnight delivery service. Electronic notices should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. No Waiver. Our failure to enforce any part of these Terms of Service shall not constitute a waiver of our right to later enforce that or any other part of these Terms of Service. Waiver of compliance in any particular instance does not mean that we will waive compliance in the future. In order for any waiver of compliance with these Terms of Service to be binding, we must provide you with written notice of such waiver through one of our authorized representatives.h. Headings. The section and paragraph headings in these Terms of Service are for convenience only and shall not affect their interpretation.Contact. You may contact us at the following address: 12 E 49th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10017.