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Costa Rica: Pineapple Interceptions in the US continue to rise

In the first half of 2016 US interceptions of Costa Rican shipments of pineapple that are suspected to be contaminated with insects have increased by 32% over the same period of 2015, according to a report from the US authorities.

According to the report, the amount increased from 213 shipments intercepted between January and June 2015 to 281 in the first six months of this year.

In June alone, interceptions increased by 9%. They went from 56 cases in 2015 to 61 this year.

Abel Chaves, president of the National Chamber of Producers and Exporters of Pineapple (Canapep), said these increases had to be related to the increase in pineapple exports.

Costa Rica's pineapple has a great reputation in different markets. The Government, producers, and the US embassy are working on a joint plan to reduce rejections.

He noted that, as a result of the increase in the volume shipped to the United States, there would be a higher possibility of having these kinds of problems. He added that it wasn't a widespread issue and that they had already identified the farms with these problems and were going to work on them.

US authorities have been concerned about the increase in interceptions of Costa Rican pineapple since June 2015, when that country threatened to impose additional restrictions to Costa Rican pineapple and chayote exports.

Almost all interceptions are due to the presence of the cochineal plague, small white insects of the Homoptera order that are located in the axils of the lower leaves of the plant, its roots, and the fruit.

In May this year, there was another worrying situation, even though the United States said nothing. This year there were 86 cases in that month, a number that is higher than the 59 cases in May last year and much higher than the 36 cases recorded in May 2014.

As a result of this high increase the State Phytosanitary Service (SFE) added farm inspection system controls at the output ports.

This measure led to a confrontation with pineapple growers in Costa Rica, which led to the resignation of Francisco Dall'Anese as director of SFE, on June 2.

The current director of SFE, Marco Vinicio Jimenez, highlighted the work done by the a commission integrated by that entity, representatives of the US Embassy, and producers.

Jimenez stated that while cases had increased in the previous months, they had already started seeing a decrease in interceptions in June. Indeed, in June there were 61 interceptions, against the 86 in May.

However, that data for June is higher than the 56 and 52 interceptions of the same month in the previous two years (2015 and 2014).

Meanwhile, Chaves said that the increase in cases had to be analyzed parallel to increased volume of exports of pineapple.

He said that, for example, in the first half of 2010 Costa Rica had exported a total of 921,475 tons of fresh pineapple, 9,632 tons of which were intercepted in the United States. That year, he stated, 1.05% of the total volume exported in six months had been intercepted.

Meanwhile, in the first six months of 2016, the United States intercepted 3,091 tons of pineapple. A number that only represents 0.32% of the total 978,882 tons of pineapple exported by the country.

The leader of the pineapple sector said the weather was their main enemy in the fight to control pests, and added that the joint work was already paying off.

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