Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Developments in Costa Rica spell sweet news for pineapple growers and consumers

CI’s Catherine Nicholson on the lasting impact of Consumers International’s pineapple trade investigation.

A year ago CI were busy finalising the documentary Pineapples: Luxury fruit at what price? with the help of Banana Link and The Guardian. The film, is part of our ongoing work on the social responsibility polices of supermarkets, illustrates some of the harsh working conditions and environmental degradation resulting from large scale pineapple production in Costa Rica.

The reaction to the film – in Costa Rica and elsewhere – ranging from support to suspicion and denial reflected the intransigence of the situation. At the time, CI supported the call by trade unions in Costa Rica for a multi-stakeholder dialogue on the issues – a move that seemed to be the only possible constructive way forward.

The recent launch of the National Platform for Responsible Pineapple Production and Trade seems like a very positive step in the right direction – it brings together all players including government, growers, exporters, the retail giant Walmart and crucially, trade unions, round the table – a first for the industry in Costa Rica.

It is too early to say what this initiative will deliver for those who work in the industry now and for Costa Rica in the future. The initial focus on environmental issues is perhaps a reasonable (and less controversial?) first step but key social issues that featured in our research – freedom of association, wage trends, and the treatment of migrant workers have yet to be firmly defined on the agenda.

Proof of the commitment by all members of the platform to a truly responsible industry will be in the tangible results that we hope to see in terms of improvements in the lives of workers, their families and communities as well as the environment in which they live. Then pineapples really will taste sweeter...

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