Fresh produce giant Chiquita has announced a decision to increase the volume of its pineapple supplies that are Rainforest Alliance certified, to ensure 'decent social and environmental production conditions'.

As part of the scheme, Chiquita has said that it is aiming to have 90 per cent of its pineapple supplies certified by the Rainforest Alliance by the end of 2009, with a long-term target of 100 per cent pineapple certification.

The move has come about amid concerns over pesticide use, water contamination, soil erosion and poor labour practices following the expansion of its pineapple production in Costa Rica and Panama.

'This is an important step, reflecting our continued commitment to highsocial and environmental standards in our own farms and those of oursuppliers,' said George Jaksch, senior director of corporateresponsibility at Chiquita.

The Rainforest Alliance certification programme, currently the only sustainable agricultural scheme for pineapple production that includes regular audits by independent experts, is based on comprehensive standards developed by the Sustainable Agriculture Network.

The standard addresses key requirements of sustainable agriculture including the conservation of natural ecosystems, soil conservation and filtration systems.

Additionally, it encompasses controlled pesticide use to prohibit use of certain chemicals (such as paraquat) to ensure the health and safety of employees and local communities, and decent pay laws compliant with fundamental human and labour rights.

'All of Chiquita's banana farms and nearly all the farms that supply the company's bananas have achieved Rainforest Alliance certification,' said Tensie Whelan, president of the Rainforest Alliance. 'Now, Chiquita is turning that same level of dedication and investment to pineapple production, which will benefit many communities, workers and wildlife.'