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The socio-economic importance of pineapples in Costa Rica

Costa Rica's pineapple sector employs about 32,000 people directly and generates exports of about one billion dollars a year (10% of the country's total exports), according to a report released today.

The study "Economic, Social and Environmental Impact of Pineapple in Costa Rica", conducted by the Central American Institute of Business Administration (INCAE) concluded that the pineapple sector had a significant economic importance in Costa Rica.

"It generates employment in economically depressed areas and contributes to the generation of value through various productive chains, favoring the economic well-being of the country," the report states.

The research shows that Costa Rica has 43 thousand hectares devoted to this crop and that exports of pineapple and its derivatives totaled 1.083 billion dollars in 2015, which consolidated it as the country's main agricultural export product.

According to the study, 98% of the pineapple produced is exported, mainly to the United States and Europe, and the sector increasingly appreciates a diversification process.

"This diversification should favor the reduction of production costs and the sector's productivity, thanks to the potential effects of economies of scale and scope. This, in turn, would have a positive social impact, particularly regarding the participation of small producers and generation of agricultural labor in economically depressed geographical areas," the report states.

According to estimates, the sector generates 130 thousand indirect jobs. In Costa Rica, a country of 4.7 million inhabitants, the total number of employed people amounts to just over two million.

The lowest-paid workers in the pineapple sectors have a salary of less than 450 dollars per month. According to the report, this is the second highest salary in the country in comparable activities.

The study indicates that, in general terms, the sector obtains favorable results in environmental and social practices, although some challenges prevail.

"Some producers have areas for improvement (especially those with less than 100 hectares) in issues related to working conditions, such as social security, occupational safety policies, and minimum wages," the report said.

Regarding the environment, the study states that "the management of liquid wastes (sewage and post-harvest applications) requires additional efforts to improve management in smaller production systems."

In recent years, pineapple expansion in Costa Rica has faced opposition from environmental sectors that have accused the industry of contaminating water sources and damaging the environment with agrochemicals and some productive practices.

During the last few days, there's been a controversy in the country as a company was granted permission to cultivate the fruit in an area with wetlands and archaeological sites.

As a result, the Ministry of Environment and Energy ordered a review of the environmental permits that the Environmental Technical Secretariat gave to the Pindeco company, part of transnational Del Monte, which would permit it to plant pineapples in a 600-hectare farm in Palmar Sur Osa, a province of Puntarenas (south) where there are wetlands and archaeological sites.

Source: EFE

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