Costa Rican pineapple volume climbs even higher

11/21/2008 12:00:00 AM
Tom Karst


Randall Arias (left), spokesman for Agromonte SA, Pital de San Carlos, Costa Rica, describes environmental measures the company has put in place to Alfonso Murillo, representative of Foreign Trade Corp. of Costa Rica, based in San Jose. The company uses extensive environmental buffers and drainage techniques to minimize erosion and environmental impact from pineapple cultivation.

(Nov. 21, 1:55 p.m.) European and North American consumers have contributed greatly to the gold pineapple’s popularity, leading to a rapid expansion in acreage in Costa Rica, a major supplier of the MD2 variety.

Now growers and marketers are working to make sure the explosive growth in pineapple production doesn’t strain Costa’s Rica’s pristine environment.

Costa Rica’s Environmental Tribunal raised an alarm this year that pineapple acreage — estimated at more 100,00 acres in 2007 compared with 30,000 acres in 2000 — could tax the country’s biodiversity and create pesticide residue in streams and rivers.

However, Costa Rica pineapple and agriculture industry sources say that producers are aggressively implementing sustainable agricultural practices to reduce erosion and continue reducing the carbon footprint of pineapple production.

Marty Ordman, marketing director for Dole Food Co. Inc., Westlake Village, Calif., said the company implemented carbon-neutral banana and pineapple programs in Costa Rica last season.

Abel Chaves of Agromonte SA, Pital de San Carlos, Costa Rica, and president of the National Pineapple Producer and Exporters Chamber, said of his company 4,940 acres 741 acres are used as environmental buffers. Chaves said members of the exporters’ group have signed on to 11 principles of social responsibility.

Manuel Sanchez, Agromonte general manager, said the company works with the Rainforest Alliance on environmental safeguards.

The expansion of pineapple production in Costa Rica has attracted some opportunistic players, said Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing in North America for Del Monte Fresh Produce Co. NA, Coral Gables, Fla.

“In particular, some new players might have chosen a quick financial return at the expense of the environment and local communities,” Christou said in an e-mail Nov. 20.

Christou said Del Monte’s Costa Rica operations were the first to be certified by independent third-party auditors for the ISO 4000 environmental standard.


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