By Anup Shah
Pineapples are nutritious and popular. But the cheap fruit comes at a high cost. Health and environmental degradation has affected both workers and local communities, but price cuts in European supermarkets has led to wage cuts for workers already earning very little.
Europe gets some three quarters of its pineapples from Costa Rica.
Although this benefits Costa Rican producers and European supermarkets, an investigation by Consumers International (an umbrella group for independent consumer organizations across Europe) and The Guardian newspaper in the UK found environmental and social damage caused by intensive fruit production there.
- The constant use of agrochemicals has led to contamination of drinking-water supplies to communities around the plantations
- Repeated chemical accidents have inflicted serious damage on the local environment
- Workers reported suffering serious health problems from exposure to the chemicals used on pineapple plantations, including in some cases accidental chemical poisoning
- Price cuts in European supermarkets have led to wages being cut
- Efforts to join independent trade unions to improve conditions are said to have been met with repression and mass sackings
Felicity Lawrence, one of the researchers in the investigation interviewed Fernando Ramirez, a leading agronomist at the Costa Rican National University’s toxic substances institute, who explaining the agrochemical cycle required to produce perfect luxury fruit from a tropical monoculture:
Pineapples need very large amounts of pesticides, about 20kg of active ingredient per hectare per cycle. The soil is sterilized; biodiversity is eliminated. Fourteen to 16 different types of…