The majority of fresh pineapples sold on the world market are produced in Latin America, with 84% grown in Costa Rica. The majority of 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, the last 10 years have seen 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 middle men, ie. the multinational traders.
Pineapple workers, on the other hand, get a very small share of the value along the supply chain - only 4%. Conditions for these workers are generally poor, including poverty wages, long hours, union repression, gender discrimination and health impacts from working with toxic chemicals. The pineapple industry is also responsible for significant environmental damage in producer countries.
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. However, 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.
Photo: Agricola Agromonte packing plant, Costa Rica