Beauty is skin deep for Benin pineap­ples

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH -

ALLADA: From his chair in the mid­dle of a pile of pineap­ples, Jean-Xavier Sa­tola su­per­vises cut­ting and pack­ag­ing, as Benin-Africa’s fourth-big­gest ex­porter of the fruit-starts trad­ing again after an eight-month self-im­posed ab­sence. The fields of Allada in south­ern Benin are a hive of ac­tiv­ity as about 20 men, in trousers to pro­tect them from the spiky leaves, pick the pineap­ples while women load them in bas­kets and carry them away on their heads.

The smooth, fat, yel­low Cayenne va­ri­ety of pineap­ples are washed, packed into card­board boxes and put on a lorry. Eight hun­dred boxes will leave on a plane for Europe that evening. Sa­tola has been in the pineap­ple busi­ness for 30 years and as soon as he got the green light from the gov­ern­ment was Benin’s first trader to re­sume exports. “I’m at 46 tons since the start of the year. It’s less than half than in Septem­ber 2016,” he said. “Re­sump­tion is slow. Some of our Euro­pean clients are hes­i­tant. But we’re ex­port­ing more guar­an­teed qual­ity now.”

In De­cem­ber, Benin’s gov­ern­ment banned exports of the fruit after re­peated warn­ings from the Euro­pean Union about pineap­ples treated with the pes­ti­cide ethep­hon. Ethep­hon is used to help a va­ri­ety of crops ripen and speeds up col­or­ing. In the­ory, the chem­i­cal stays on the skin of the fruit but if too much is sprayed, it can get in­side. The EU warn­ings came as ethep­hon residue was found to be higher than per­mit­ted lev­els. But Sa­tola, who heads Benin’s Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Pineap­ple Pro­duc­ers and Ex­porters, said grow­ers were also re­spond­ing to the taste of Euro­pean con­sumers.

‘Re­spect mar­ket de­mands’ Pro­duc­ers “did any old thing” to make the out­side of their pineap­ples the pre­ferred yel­low color rather than the nat­u­ral green, he said. “They were adding doses of col­orant pes­ti­cides after the rains or tip­ping in a lot after re­ceiv­ing an ur­gent or­der.” Benin’s au­thor­i­ties im­posed a vol­un­tary ex­port ban while it got its house in or­der. A list of ex­porters was made, work­ers who ad­min­is­tered the ethep­hon were trained and the state in­vested up to 300 mil­lion CFA francs ($536,000—460,000 euros) in equip­ment to an­a­lyze lev­els. The coun­try’s food stan­dards agency ABSSA now car­ries out tests in the fields and at air­ports be­fore ship­ping. “These mea­sures had to be taken,” said the head of ABSSA, Se­tondji Hos­sou. “We have to have qual­ity pro­duce and re­spect mar­ket de­mands.” —AFP

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