A severe strike in Costa Rica over the last two weeks has heavily affected the banana and pineapple industries, with the latter suffering multi-million dollar losses.
The standstill by the country’s unions began on Sept. 10 in response to the government’s proposed tax reforms which would mean an increase in levies to face the bulky fiscal deficit.
The strike has affected ports, roads, and educational and medical centers, among others, which has led to widespread shortages of gasoline and many products inside the country.
Laura Bonilla, president of the Chamber of Exporters of Costa Rica (Cadexco), told local newspaper Diario Extra that total losses in the export section hit US$89 million in just one week.
“We have not been able to export because there is no port capacity. It is not fair, we pay the CCSS [Costa Rican social security fund] and our taxes. We represent 34% of the gross domestic product,” she said.
At least 650 thousand boxes of pineapples were estimated to have been lost during the first week of the strike.
“If this is maintained, it will be a disaster for the pineapple sector,” Abel Chaves, president of the National Chamber of Producers and Exporters of Piña (Canapep), was quoted as saying.
The association said that delivered funds, along with other organizations, to avoid the total paralysis of the Port of Moín, near Limón on the Caribbean coast. But even with support, as of Sept. 19 industry losses had exceeded US$3 million.
Meanwhile, Jorge Sauma, general manager of the National Banana Corporation (Corbana), told Fresh Fruit Portal on Friday that so far they had lost around 180,000 – 200,000 boxes.
“There are bananas that stayed in the containers, so we lost almost a week’s worth of exports. This is a serious problem. In other countries, there are unions that protest, but they do not block the ports,” Sauma said.
The country’s banana exports are mainly sent to the U.S. and Europe.
Alfredo Volio, owner of pineapple company Upala Agrícola told local media that customers are beginning to cancel fruit orders.
“They began to cancel the orders because there are still unsent containers from last week,” he was quoted as saying. In Moin he has 25 containers that have not been shipped to their destination.
The government says that talks have been initiated with the unions and that they hope to resolve the situation soon.
Sauma said that some banana exports are now resuming thanks to the start of the talks and he expects the strike to finish soon.