The majority of fresh pineapples sold on the world market are produced in Latin America, with 84% grown in Costa Rica. Similar to the banana trade, much of the production is on large-scale, monoculture plantations owned by a small number of national and multinational fruit companies. The Del Monte fruit company and its subsidiaries produce over 50% of Costa Rica’s pineapple exports. Smaller producers do exist, but many are facing high debts and bankruptcy.
Whilst the major fruit companies such as Del Monte, Dole, Fyffes and Chiquita used to dominate the world pineapple supply chain, in the last 10 years there has been a rise in the influence of major retailers. The ‘pineapple split’ graphic below shows the distribution of value along the pineapple supply chain, with retailers now taking the lion’s share – 41%. This share is steadily increasing as retailers seek to buy direct from producers, cutting out the middlemen, ie. the multinational traders.
Compared to retailers, pineapple workers only receive around 4% of the value along the supply chain. They also work in particularly poor conditions, working long hours for poverty wages. Workers also face union repression, gender discrimination and health issues caused by working with toxic chemicals. For example, a recent report published by Oxfam found that workers on pineapple plantations are frequently being exposed to dangerous levels of pesticide and in several areas, water supplies are constantly being contaminated with chemicals. Many of the chemicals in use are not licensed for use in the EU because they are considered to be too dangerous to use.
Like any large-scale production, the pineapple industry is also responsible for significant environmental damage in producer countries. However, some examples of better social and environmental practices can be seen within the industry, particularly in the case of small Fairtrade and Organic certified producers in the northern region of Costa Rica. On the other hand, these small producers represent a minority in an industry that is dominated by large-scale, conventional production, controlled by a handful of powerful fruit companies.