efe_epaSan Jose

Thousands of hectares of forested ecosystems have been cleared in Costa Rica to provide cropland for pineapples in recent years, according to what Mauricio Alvarez, president of the Costa Rican Conservationist Federation (FECON) told EFE on Tuesday.

"In 15 years, they cut down 725,000 trees, (causing) irreversible damage to the country. Complaints were never able to stand in the way ... although the communities complained that, in just one night, complete forests ... disappeared," Alvarez said.

Now the Costa Rican government's National Territorial Information System (SNIT), which uses a cartographic viewer with satellite images from state geographic information systems and official databases is showing that pineapple plantations are replacing forests.

"These invasions occurred between 2000 and 2015. The (documents) can be seen at http://www.snitcr.go.cr/Visor/index, the SNIT Web site, prepared with the participation of different public institutions," said Alvarez.

All this places in doubt earlier reports and studies, given that the platform contains data that show that from 2000-2015 a total of 5,566 hectares (about 13,915 acres) of forest cover was lost to pineapple cultivation.

The FECON president said that "today, there is enough evidence to call for implementation of Article 57 of the prevailing Forestry Law, which says that the authorities must comply with the law or face appropriate penalties.

SNIT figures show that "12 percent of the land planted in pineapple has been sown illegally, destroying forested zones without permits."

According to Alvarez, "the communities and we ecologists are justified in our fight against pineapple expansion. It has been verified that uncontrolled expansion of the pineapple monoculture wipes out our forests, our water, our biodiversity and our communities with the greatest impunity and socio-environmental impact."

Henry Picado Cerdas, the president of the National Front of Sectors Affected by Pineapple Production (FRENASAPP), told EFE that the organization hopes the Public Ministry launches criminal procedures against all the farms committing environmental crimes and "if it's necessary also against the ministerial officials."

"The pineapple growers work at night digging up the forests and the wetlands and, the next morning, you don't find any trace of what was at that place. This has been denounced on multiple occasions without result," he said.

Pineapples are one of Costa Rica's main export products, with 2016 sales abroad of $873 million, according to the National Chamber of Pineapple Producers and Exporters (CANAPEP). The country's pineapple sector has 550 producers, provides 30,000 jobs and has 43,000 hectares under cultivation.

Fifty-three percent of the exports of the fruit go to the United States, 44 percent to the European Union and the rest elsewhere.