Trinidad and Tobago closes its borders to Costa Rican cabbage and broccoli

Cooprimex is a small company that currently employs 50 female heads of household in Paso Ancho, Cartago. Diana Valverde, the owner of the company, fears she'll have to lay off staff due to a curb on their export activity.

Other small and medium-sized businesses, including groups of farmers in Cartago and Zarcero, are also being affected the slump in exports.

Cooprimex alone estimates they destroyed 69 thousand kilos of cabbage and 46 thousand kilos of broccoli in a month because they couldn't export the product and it was no longer suitable for human consumption.

Valverde said that there are agricultural producers who are desperately knocking on their doors because they have nowhere to place the harvest.

Trinidad and Tobago banned the entry of Costa Rican cabbage and broccoli because it will no longer accept products that are fumigated with methyl bromide, a highly toxic chemical.

"We purchase the products from more than 300 farmers from Cartago and Zarcero. Broccoli and cabbage have always needed fumigation. Trinidad and Tobago is our main client in the Caribbean Community. We do not have another market to export to," she said.

She also said that Puerto Rico could be an alternative market, but that they prefer to buy from the United States because of a price issue.

"We could export two containers per week. This issue must be affecting another five companies. It's a real problem because we can not get the product out of the country," she added.

Valverde also said that farmers didn't use methyl bromide, and that the products were fumigated in the plant process. "There is no solution and the State's Phytosanitary Service (SFE) has only said that they had been working on it for months," he said.

Fernando Araya, the director of the SFE, said that this week they made arrangements with their counterparts in Trinidad and Tobago to extend the deadline while they find a replacement pesticide.

Another proposal is for that Caribbean country to offer an alternative solution to continue exporting until the matter is resolved.

Diario Extra learned that the Trinidadian authorities hadn't notified of the closure of the market and that both the Foreign Trade Promoter and the Ministry of Foreign Trade and SFE are seeking a solution. The idea is to identify the pest so that they may know how best to fumigate it.


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