Pineapples are a fruit, we all love to eat. Pineapple food recipes are most delicious; but not many of us know the origin of this fruit. The word ‘pineapple’ is said to have been first mentioned in English language in 1398. It was named pineapple because of its pine-cone shape and juicy nature. The botanical name is Ananas comosus. Pineapple is a fruit, which is free from fat and cholesterol. It is rich in Vitamin C. In costa Rica, it is one of the major export crops.
Walking into the Hacienda Ojo de Agua, in Costa Rica I was hit by this vast and huge pineapple fields, stretching over acres and acres. Costa Rica is one of the leading exporters of the fresh pineapples in the world. We were a group of university graduate students under the Regional Universities forum / Community Action Research on a trip to Earth University in Costa Rica on a program to study the “ innovative models of undergraduate Education for entrepreneurship and sustainable Development. Part of the program included a lot of farm visits and Factory visits. The visit to the pineapple factory “Hacienda Ojo de Agua,” was one of the first visits.
A very impressive set up, all looks well and fine until we come to the river that flows through the farm. The river of course has multi functions, at this time of the year, the water levels were low. One of its major use was also for domestic purposes for the communities that live along it. Pineapple growing on huge commercial ventures require chemicals. The agrochemical cycle required to produce a perfect luxury fruit from a tropical monoculture needs huge amounts of pesticides. The Hacienda Ojo de Agua was no exception to this rule
“Pineapples need very large amounts of pesticides, about 20kg of active ingredient per hectare per cycle. The soil is sterilized and biodiversity is eliminated. Fourteen to 16 different types of treatment are typically needed, and many have to be applied several times. Farms use chemicals that are dangerous for the environment and human health.” The chemicals involved are legal in Costa Rica but include some of the most controversial in the world.”
According to Felicity Lawrence in her article “ Bitter Fruit” the truth about supermarket pineapple “ The main burden of this constant agrochemical assault falls not on affluent western consumers, however, but on Costa Ricans – 90 complaints about public water relating to 19 pineapple companies in 2010 were before the country’s environmental court, including some against the biggest producers. One involved the community of El Cairo, which sits below two vast plantations in Costa Rica’s Atlantic region, Hacienda Ojo de Agua and Finca Babilonia. The former was contracted to supply pineapples to Del Monte; the latter has been directly owned by Del Monte since 2008.
Watching the activities at the Hacienda Ojo de Agua, it was not difficult to ascertain this facts. Still in her article, Lawrence continued to observe that “For more than three years, the residents here and in neighbouring villages – around 6,000 people in total – have had to collect their drinking water from a tanker because the ground water had been declared unsafe. Tests showed it was contaminated with agrochemicals used in pineapple production, including ones linked with cancer and that disrupt hormone systems.”
By 2009, Pineapples were worth $700m to the Costa Rican economy in 2009. The sector was employing around 25,500 workers directly and accounted for a further 100,000 jobs indirectly. In the eyes of the government, the multinationals and principal aid donor the US, the industry represents a much-needed opportunity for Costa Rica to develop.
Back in class, our Professor asked us to analyse the “externalities” associated with our visit to the farm. We had to rank a number of factors ranging from air/water, Flora and fauna to Economic aspects., giving a percent of 0 to 100 The whole class gave the lowest range to air/ water and the highest was given to Economical aspect. Even to a first visitor it was apparent that little was being done for environmental sustainability. Our professor then associated this with “ Market failure and externalities” If we assumed that the producer was only interested in maximizing profits, then they will only take into account the private costs and private benefits arising from the supply of their products.
With this in mind, where do small entrepreneurs venturing into the pineapple industry fall? Practicing environmentally sustainability or Maximization of profit
The writer was a part of the University student body on a visit to the Hacienda Ojo de Agua, in Costa Rica