Conventional pineapples are being exported as organic products

Costa Rica: Government accused of ignoring organic pineapple issue

The Commission of Control of the Income and Public Expenditure of the Legislative Assembly is investigating a suspected export fraud in which conventional pineapples were exported as organic pineapples, which would endanger the country's brand in the international market and the future of genuine organic producers.

The first hearing on the subject, on February 20, was attended by the Minister of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG), Luis Felipe Arauz; the vice minister, Ivannia Quesada; the director of the State Phytosanitary Service (SFE), Marco Vinicio Jimenez; the former director of that office, Francisco Dall'Anese, and representatives of the National Chamber of Organic Agriculture (Canagro).

At the hearing, there was a head-on clash between the positions of the Chamber and the heads of the Ministry. The Chamber represents a sector of organic pineapple producers and argues that the authorities of the MAG have not responded to the complaints they've made since 2016. According to them, "the country is exporting more organic pineapple than it produces." Meanwhile the Ministry maintains that they have been investigated the issue and have found no irregularities.

However, the officials' responses demonstrated that there are incredible failures in the surveillance that the State must conduct on organic production exports and taking care of the market.

Despite claiming that there have been no irregularities in the export of organic pineapple, the minister, the vice minister, and the ESF officials were unable to state how big the area devoted to ​​growing organic pineapple in the country was and what the yield per hectare was. This data, the members of Canagro stated, is elementary to know if the country is exporting more organic pineapple than it produces.

In addition, the director of the SFE, Marco Vinicio Jimenez, acknowledged that it was possible to export organic fruit without knowledge of the SFE (even though this dependence of the MAG is responsible, by law, for keeping the register of organic producers and certifiers, and for monitoring the compliance of the requirements to maintain that condition).

"That means that the country brand is not protected by the Costa Rican State," noted the president of the Legislative Commission, Rolando Gonzalez.

Canagro representatives spoke of the need of investigating the alleged presence of conventional pineapple that is being sold as organic pineapple in the US and European markets, as there have been rumors about this since 2014.

They insisted on accusing the authorities of not having paid due attention to the problem, and of having shelved an investigation carried out by engineer Jose Miguel Jimenez, an inspector of the ESF. Said investigation verified irregularities in an organic pineapple export company located in Pital de San Carlos.

The legislative investigation arose after Canagro complained about the MAG authorities' alleged inaction regarding the complaints filed against the Valle Verde Corp. L y L, Proyectos MMV SA, and Congelados y Jugos Valle Verde SA companies, which belong to the same group and are located in the area of Pital de ​​San Carlos, and that allegedly would be involved in the fraud.

According to members of Canagro, several exports of conventional pineapple were placed in international markets as if they were organic products. This would have represented huge profits for the people who sold them, and would cause a collapse in prices that could bankrupt producers who do comply with the rules of organic production, as it is more expensive than the conventional production.

According to the producers, the first alert arrived in October 2015, during a meeting in Vermont, United States, when US importers expressed concern about the alleged fraud with organic pineapple.


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