A Pacific canton issues a plea for economic help

In Costa Rica 150,000 persons work in growing and exporting agricultural products. Some 5,000 more are engaged in exporting fish and other seafoods. These are the sectors most vulnerable to the economic winds.

A plea from the canton of Carrillo Wednesday said that the closing of a melon-growing operation there and the slowdown in the tourism and construction industries have left more than 1,500 residents without jobs. The canton is known for its cantaloupes.

The Guardian newspaper reported last weekend that pineapple wars in the supermarkets of Europe have led to reductions in the workforce in that type of agricultural enterprise here because of reduced income for the crop. Much of these layoffs are in the northern zone. Carrillo is on the Pacific coast. A popular tourist town there is Playas del Coco.

Carlos Alberto Chanto Canales, president of the Consejo Civil de Carrillo, raised the issue Wednesday in an e-mail plea to the news media and to President laura Chinchilla. The problems in his canton are a small-scale version of national employment problems.

The Promotora del Comercio Exterior produced the study this week that said some 200,000 jobs in industry are linked to exports. And it also gave the agricultural and fishery numbers.
Chanto said that Del Monte closed the melon-growing operation in Filadelfia and said the action represented the death of hopes and a source of work for 1,500 persons. Carrillo also is the location of a number of tourist destinations. These, too, are having their troubles this year with an unfavorable dollar-colon exchange rate, crime, terrorist threats elsewhere and traditional tourists in North America hunkering down in their own homes. Agriculture just suffered a serious impact from heavy rains, and El Niña in the Pacific promises more unwelcome weather. The whole of Guanacaste is just recovering from a drought.

In addition, political infighting over the construction of a water supply line from Sardinal has brought Coco developers to the brink of bankruptcy even though they paid for the project.

Chanto asked President Chinchilla to take unspecified measures quickly to ease the situation which has left the canton at the mercy of the economic crisis.

The Promotora del Comercio Exterior, the country’s quasi-public promotional arm, said that its figures were based on surveys done of companies in the coffee, banana and sugar production industries.

The exportation aspects of agriculture, fisheries and industry represent 76 percent of the nation’s workforce, it said. The study was supported by Banco Nacional.

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