Today, we had the opportunity to visit both a banana plantation and a pineapple plantation. After experiencing this, I think that there are many similarities and differences between the operations of coffee, banana, and pineapple plantations. One main difference is the initial intended role of these products in the supply chain. Although coffee was grown and processed with the intention of being exported, crops such as bananas were never originally intended to serve as exports. Rather, the banana crop started when it was seen as a cheap way to feed the plantation workers while still giving them enough energy to work throughout the day. However, people ended up seeing a lot of potential for transforming the banana into an export crop, as bananas are able to produce all year round. In addition, a difference between these industries can be seen in how Costa Rica is the number one exporter of pineapples in the world, while the same cannot be said for coffee or bananas in Costa Rica.
Every plantation that we have visited so far engages in a variety of sustainable practices. For example, today, we learned that the banana plantation fertilizes the crop with cow poop, chicken poop, and compost. In addition, we learned that bananas and plantains are put to a wide variety of uses, with every last part of the crop playing a role in the process. Whether it’s the trunk, the leaf, or the fruit itself, no part of the banana plant is put to waste. Furthermore, we learned that the pineapple plantation remains committed to sustainability by remaining 100% organic, as they do not use any type of herbicides.
Despite the many strengths and successes of banana and pineapple plantations, there are many threats that these plantations face. Today, we learned that one great struggle that the banana plantation has faced recently is the lack of tourism; throughout the past few years, the pandemic has greatly decreased the revenue coming from tourists. In order to help mitigate this, the banana plantation that we visited created new products and sold them locally instead of exporting them. Another issue facing these plantations is the reality that, when you are producing a monocrop, you increase the risk of a disease outbreak.
Ultimately, if I were a plantation worker, I would prefer to work on a coffee plantation. One reason for this is that the growing season wouldn’t be all year round. Another reason is that my job would be more secure, as there are arguably less threats to the economic wellbeing of coffee plantations than there are to that of banana/pineapple plantations.