Is agriculture in Costa Rica to extinguish?

By: Mauricio Álvarez

To do honor to the people who give their lives to the cultivation of the ground, to women, men, children and girls, simple farmhands recites the national anthem, it is to recognize our absence of agriculture, almost extermination of the small producer under the dictatorship of the agribusiness which monopolizes our grounds and is of benefit to few and not even its fruits are for the national consumption, committing an outrage against our food safety.

The information is forceful, 60% of the national production of our country is for the exportation of bananas, pineapple, coffee, palm oil, plants, foliage, flowers, yucca and melon (FAO, 2012). All produced like monocultures, which contribute to the fact that we are the world´s first place importer of insecticides or poisons (FAO, 2010).

Far from our competitors in tropical America such as Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras or Brazil.

It is a lot of poison. Yes, it is the best word that can describe pesticides and other substances of synthetic origin used in the agribusiness. Extensively associated with multiple problems to the health, like: cancer, deformities in fetuses, learning disabilities, allergies, acute poisonings and therefore death. Responsible also for contamination in basins, today even responsible for death at sea.

According to statistics of the FAO in 2010 Costa Rica consumed: 24,56 Kilograms of active ingredient (the chemical compound that exercises the pesticide action) per hectare per year (i.a / hect./ year), following Colombia with 14,50 and China with 17,81. While, in fertilizers, according to the information of the World Bank, we are in the first places of the world regarding fertilizer consumption, approximately 5 times the world average, while Costa Rica has an average of 705 kg consumption while the world average is about 141 kg per hectare of cultivable ground, which places us above hundreds of countries and regions.

This demonstrates that we are forcing the agriculture of our country to a production threshold – contamination while we gain more money with an increasing environmental damage lived on the short, mid and long term.

The systematical studies conducted by the Regional Institute of Studies in Poisonous Substances (IRET) and global statistics demonstrate that the use and abuse of agricultural poisons has increased significantly in Costa Rica, without having increased the agricultural areas in the country. The depletion of the agricultural border explains the poisons abuse. The quantity of agrotoxics imported by Costa Rica has increased 3,14 times from 1977. Only in insecticides, Costa Rica imported184.817 tons of active ingredient from 1977 to 2006.

Also, the import of insecticides, fungicides and other poisons is already inside the main 15 products imported and it generated in 2011 expenses to the country for 136.6 Millions of US$ (PROCOMER, 2011), all this at the cost of a big dispossession and an increasing concentration of grounds in few companies.

We are being left without ground. Let's see an example: 60% of the production of oil palm is in hands of transnational and big cooperatives. With an aggressive but silent expansion it grew from 57,000 hectares in 2010 to 67,562 in 2013 to an estimated 71,500 for 2014. In Bananas, 52% of the production is in hand of transnational companies (Chiquita, DOLE, BANDECO), the rest is sowed by independent producers which sell to the transnational companies that export and commercialize.

Our food safety is in crisis. While transnational companies keep our best lands for the exportation of desserts, we are importing the main products of daily consumption: common beans, rice with rind, yellow corn, soybean and wheat.

A calculation in 2008 assured that we would need an additional 283 thousand hectares of white maize (16000), and yellow (150000), beans (41000) and rice (76000) if we wanted to meet the local demand, but how do we guarantee our basic grains if all our land is concentrated in agricultural export businesses (Baltodano p in 2008).

In 2008, a worldwide food crisis is declared, and even the neoliberal Government in Costa Rica, responsible for this historical ruin, recognized the importance of regaining our food sovereignty not only because of the increase in prices, but also because of the shortage of food supply in the world.

This crisis should serve to become aware of the urgency to overcome the era of agrochemicals and mega agro-industry, and seriously aim at recovering our food sovereignty and fair and sustainable management of arable land.

There is no lack of food or production. We lack justice and equity in the field. There are many ways of controlling pests without using chemical poisons. They are more and more families who are improving their income, health, and the environment with organic agriculture, which has grown rapidly in just a few years, becoming a fairer and more popular option.


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