- Category: The Nation
- Published on Friday, July 15 2011 04:03
- Written by Rod Hughes
- Hits: 535
While Agriculture Ministry officials worry about the introduction of an insect pest in illegal shipments of tomatoes crossing "blind" sections of Costa Rica's borders, rice farmers complain about illegal shipments of rice from Nicaragua entering the country.
But that isn't the end of their woes--a new streamlined method of obtaining supplies, especially pesticides, has yet to go into effect due to a lack of budgeted funds.
What is unique about these complaints is that usually farmers complain about too much bureaucracy that complicates their lives when it comes time to market their crops, either domestically or abroad. Today their gripe is lack of government control.
The new pest is the tuta absoluta, an insect that nibbles on the leaves and fruit that could come in in shipments of illegal tomatoes. This is a new plague previously unknown in this country, although tomato plants are subject to fungi on the leaves here, especially in the rainy season.
To preempt infection, sanitary officials have placed 117 traps for the insects in 39 widely distributed locations. In 2010, the country exported $2.6 million worth of the fruit to the United States, Nicaragua, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Panama, El Salvador and Honduras.
Agustin Navarro, liaison for rice growers with the government, charged that 5,000 tons of illegal rice so far this year had entered the country from Nicaragua but that the government has promised to tighten up border controls.
The rice situation in Nicaragua is unique. Nicaraguan rice exports, according to the newspaper Diario Extra, is forbidden because that nation does not produce enough for its own internal consumption. But, says Navarro, rice imported into Nicaragua is being resold to this country at a higher price than importers could get in their own country.
Both Costa Rica's borders are quite porous. In the north most illegal aliens and uncontrolled products are smuggled in out of sight of the main border station, Penas Blancas. In the south, Paso Canoas is the only controlled point of entry.
At both border posts, long lines of international truckers wait for inspection for illegal products and narcotrafficking while manifests are scrutinized. Inspectors are aware that time is money to these drivers but have difficult jobs to do. Corruption exists but is rarer than in many border stations in the world.
Meanwhile the the Chamber of Agricultural Supplies complains that a new Ministry of Agriculture office created last April to ease paperwork on products needed by farmers still has not received funds to staff it. The formal complaint has been filed with the Environmental Ministry and the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Commerce.
Chamber spokesman Jose Manuel Dominguez's complaint is backed by tomato farmer representative Javier Rojas who said that some of the pesticides used in the production of that crop are out of date due to a bureaucratic logjam. Fabian Segura, potato farmer spokesman agrees, saying that he fears if a virulent infestation occurs in the country, farmers won't have the weapons of fight it.
Note: We have used information from Diario Extra for this report. With its red headlines and careful attention to the seamier aspects of life, it has the reputation of being a sensationalist paper and many disparage it. But we have found that it tends to report news that impacts directly on people while more mainstream publications tend to concentrate on the rarefied aspects of political and business news.