Tourism chamber steps into fray over imports

The national tourism chamber has given backing to what it called the right of consumers.

The issue is the restriction of importations of certain products. The chamber, the  Cámara Nacional de Turismo, said it backed the free importation of products because hotels, restaurants and other entities linked to tourism need them.

The statement came after seven other chambers called for the firing of the director del Servicio Fitosanitario del Estado,  Francisco Dall´Anesse Álvarez, and  Bernardo Jaén Hernández, the director of the  Servicio de Salud Animal.

Both men are the center of a controversy best known to the public as a restriction on the importation of Mexican avocados. The fruit has been kept out of the country over a condition known as sunblotch.

But there are other products that have faced some forms of restrictions. They include honey, potatoes, pork, beef, platanos and spices. Critics contend the import restrictions are protectionism designed to help local producers.

The seven chambers are calling on President Luis Guillermo Solís to fire the two men. So far, the central government has supported them.

The tourism chamber said that the restrictions are a bad sign coming from the executive branch and that the organization supports the right of consumers although there has to be what was called an equilibrium between imports and local products.

There does not seem to be an shortage of avocados at upscale supermarkets even though Costa Rica imports most of the product from México.

The perishable products chamber, the Cámara de Productos Perecederos, says 70 persons involved in handling avocado imports already have been laid off by private firms and that 250 more jobs are in jeopardy.

Sunblotch  does not seem to be a bacterial disease that could be spread easily by imports. The tiny causal agent is smaller than a virus and spreads through pollen or contact with trees already infected, according to the University of California Cooperative Extension Service.

The fruit of the avocado does not seem to carry the causal agent, called a viroid.

Both the Servicio de Salud Animal and the Servicio Fitosanitario del Estado have as their functions to protect the country from imported plant and animal diseases and to insure that exports are not carrying harmful bugs or diseases.

The Solís administration has shown a tendency toward protectionism.

Last year the economics ministry trashed plans to eliminate controls on the price of rice. That was seen as a boon to rice farmers.

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