Costa Rica pineapple
The Costa Rica pineapple
There are words, titles that evoke more things than others. Costa Rica pineapple will have exotic tastes for many, mouth-watering flavors for others and will sound like a horror movie title for others.
But why so much difference in the apprehension of this exotic fruit?
We will try to take stock of Costa Rica’s pineapple, its history, its culture and the effects of its production on the environment.
We would like to point out that we play a neutral, objective observer role and take our information from several reliable and experienced sources to give you a global and real view of pineapple production in Costa Rica. These sources are producers of organic pineapple (Belicio gift to Boca Tapada), CANAPEP (national chamber of pineapple production and export) to name a few.
A little historical reminder
Pineapple production in Costa Rica has gone through two important phases.
In the 60s, she was still at a craft level. Indeed, the production was intended for local consumption and did not use or very little fruit ripening process.
In the early 80’s, begins the second phase. That of industrial production, international export and the use of fertilizers and artificial induction.
It is the companies Piñera del Sur and the multinational Chiquita that will start this massive production. The big producers of the time were Honduras, Ecuador and Mexico. Costa Rica was in its infancy.
If at the beginning of the 70s the totality of the production was reserved for the local consumption, nowadays it represents only 7%. The rest of the production is sent around the world.
Pineapple cultivation occupies nearly 45,000 hectares of Costa Rican territory. This represents about 0.8% of the territory only for this crop.
Pineapple has become Costa Rica’s flagship product. We find them on all supermarket shelves. Who has not eaten his Costa Rica pineapple?
Economically, pineapple yielded US $ 941.95 million in 2017. Compared with 2011 figures (US $ 789.41 million) the increase is significant.
Pineapple now accounts for nearly 32,000 jobs in Costa Rica. For a total of 145 exporting companies and about sixty packaging factories.
Distribution of pineapple export countries
The conventional culture of pineapple
We will not go into the technical details of this culture, this is not the purpose of this article. We will nevertheless present the most significant aspects of its production.
Pineapple production requires a full year to provide fruit.
What are the conditions for producing pineapple?
The soils must be rather acidic, draining, exposed to the sun and be able to be irrigated during the dry season.
The soils must be prepared and enriched with fertilizer (spreading of manure) to be able to accommodate the pineapple. Because it has a very low rooting power.
The varieties of pineapple produced have changed over time. While the Cayenna Lisa variety was the main product of the 1980s, Costa Rica moved quickly to Champaca production and is now producing the world’s pineapple star, the Golden.
How do you plant a pineapple?
Pineapple production is done only by rejects. The mother plant produces several types of rejects and the selection of the best rejection is of essential economic importance. Indeed, the rejection must weigh between 300 and 400 gr to give then the best fruit.
The rejects prepared, will be immersed in a fungicidal insecticidal spray before being planted.
It is good practice to plant discards in quantities ranging from 55,000 to 77,000 plants per hectare.
The same plot can be harvested 3 years in a row, but the fruits will lose in quality and weight over the years.
As pineapple is not very competitive with weeds and other diseases, there is a very important need for fertilizer to ripen the fruit.
The main dangers of pineapple production are mealybugs, weeds and phytophtora rots.
Naturally pineapple will have an induction thanks to a decrease of the temperatures, a reduction of the duration of the day or the smoke.
In conventional agricultural practice, this induction will be artificial. It is produced based on a mixture of ethrel. It is realized between six months and a year.
Spreading will be done preferably in the evening.
Pineapple can be harvested as soon as the bottom quarter of the fruit turns yellow. (But this will depend on the consumer and the buyer).
The harvest is done by hand. The peduncle is cut about 2 cm at the base of the fruit.
The crown can be removed according to the preferences of the buyer.
If the production stages remain essentially the same as those we have just seen for conventional pineapple cultivation, it is the use of fertilizers and their quantity that makes the difference.
It should be known that the big difference between conventional pineapple and organic pineapple comes from the products used during induction, phytosanitary products and the amount of fungicide insecticides used. We will not go into detail about product names. The important thing is to know that in the production of organic pineapple, the products used are a little less toxic than in those of conventional pineapples.
This culture is therefore not totally neutral for the environment but has a much lesser effect compared to conventional cultivation.
Effects of pineapple culture
In Costa Rica, pineapple does not really have a good reputation. Indeed, many areas have been “destroyed” by this culture. The old forests have been transformed by pineapple fields that have burned the soil because of the enormous quantity of chemicals needed for its production.
Some villages will no longer be able to use water from their water table because of the infiltration of these products through the soil.
Biodiversity is hugely affected, as nothing is going back ten years after pineapple production. Habitats are destroyed and will take a long time to re-establish.
If the environmental danger is obvious, the social impact causes growing discomfort.
Workers’ diseases, low wages and difficult working conditions in the fields make pineapple production difficult for exporters to defend.
The fact that there is a gap between the huge economic benefits of large companies and the difficult working conditions on one side and the environmental impact on the other makes pineapple largely unpopular.
And for the consumer?
It is of course recommended to consume an organic pineapple rather than a conventional pineapple. But everything will depend on our supermarkets and other distribution channels. However, the educated consumer will be able to lobby their favorite fruit supplier to direct their purchase of organic fruit.
Do you know how to choose a good pineapple?
Everyone goes for his method:
“I feel it”, “I touch to see if it’s soft”, “I’m thanks to color”.
And good news, these are not good solutions. It should be known that the color will vary according to the varieties of pineapple. For example, organic pineapple will be much smaller than a conventional pineapple and will be of a rather green color once wall.
Here is the advice of an organic pineapple farmer to be able to choose it:
“For it to be good, you have to choose a pineapple with the eyes (you know the small cells all along the pineapple) of the same size from the base of the fruit to its head. This is very important that shows a good distribution of sugar in the fruit. ”
“I also advise to choose a pineapple with a symmetrical geometric shape. He must not have a wide base and a thin head. It must be well symmetrical. ”
Is it dangerous to eat a pineapple?
A German study recently showed that chemicals remained concentrated on pineapple leaves. We recommend that you ask your market gardener to remove them before taking the fruit home. If you buy it in the supermarket, do not hesitate to remove the crown and throw the leaves. Then wash your hands and the rest of the pineapple well.
The skin of the pineapple retains few chemicals and the fruit has almost no trace. You can eat it without moderation and integrate it into many recipes or alone.
The need to write this article was felt after the many legitimate questions of our travelers.
The same question often comes up: is it dangerous to eat pineapple?
We wanted to be transparent, objective in order to give you accurate and real information, without language of wood. Pineapple farming is a real problem for people and the environment. In the same way as growing bananas and any other monoculture (eg palm oil, etc.).
It is up to us to know how to make the difference and to impose our choices on large distributions for a better agricultural practice respectful of the environment and men.
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