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Chiquita

"Chiquita" redirects here. For other uses, see Chiquita (disambiguation).
Chiquita Brands International
Public
Traded as CQB
Industry Agriculture
Founded 1863
Headquarters Charlotte, North Carolina
Key people Edward F. Lonergan, President & CEO
Products Food, Bananas
Revenue Decrease$3.07 billion USD (2012)
Net income Decrease$(405 million) USD (2012)
Employees 10,000 (2007 est)
Website www.chiquita.com


Chiquita Brands International Inc. is an American producer and distributor of bananas and other produce, under a variety of subsidiary brand names, collectively known as Chiquita. Other brands include Fresh Express salads, which it purchased from Performance Food Group in 2005. Its current headquarters is located in Charlotte, North Carolina.[1] Chiquita is the successor to the United Fruit Company and is the leading distributor of bananas in the United States. The company also owns a German produce distribution company, Atlanta AG, which it acquired in 2003. Chiquita was formerly controlled by Cincinnati businessman Carl H. Lindner, Jr., whose majority ownership of the company ended as a result of Chiquita Brands International exiting a prepackaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy on March 19, 2002. The enterprise changed its name to Chiquita Brands and operates with that name to this day.

Chiquita Banana

The trademark logo mascot, "Miss Chiquita," now Chiquita Banana, was created in 1944 by Dik Browne, who is best known for his Hägar the Horrible comic strip. The original character was an animated banana with a woman's dress and legs. 1940s vocalist Patti Clayton was the original 1944 voice of Chiquita Banana, followed by Elsa Miranda, June Valli and Monica Lewis. Advertisements featured the banana character wearing a fruit hat (the fruit hat costume, in turn, first emerged in a film featuring a character played by Carmen Miranda, the year before the logo was invented). The banana with a fruit hat was changed into a woman in 1987. Peel-off stickers with the logo started being placed on bananas in 1963, and are still placed by hand, in order to avoid bruising the fruit.[2]

History

Chiquita Brands International, Inc. is the final name in a long list of companies whose ultimate origin was the United Fruit Company, formed in 1899 by the merging of the Boston Fruit Company and various fruit exporting concerns controlled by Minor C. Keith. In 1970 it became the United Brands Company when it was purchased by Eli Black. He outbid two other conglomerates, Zapata Corporation and Textron, for a controlling interest in the company.[3] In fact, that is a condensed version of what has actually happened to United Fruit Co., famed in the U.S. for Chiquita bananas, but known to generations of Latin Americans as "el Pulpo" (the Octopus). In 1990 the company became Chiquita Brands International.

On November 29, 2011, the North Carolina Economic Investment Committee approved $22 million in incentives for Chiquita to move its headquarters to Charlotte, North Carolina. The same day, Chiquita officially announced the headquarters move. The company cited the growing airport as another reason for the move. Chiquita will take several floors in the NASCAR Plaza tower. Research and development will also move to the Charlotte area.[1][4]

The Cincinnati Enquirer controversy


On May 3, 1998, The Cincinnati Enquirer published an eighteen-page section,[6] "Chiquita Secrets Revealed" by Enquirer investigative reporters Michael Gallagher and Cameron McWhirter. The articles accused the company of mistreating the workers on its Central American plantations, polluting the environment, allowing cocaine to be brought to the United States on its ships, bribing foreign officials, evading foreign nations' laws on land ownership, forcibly preventing its workers from unionizing, and a host of other misdeeds.

Chiquita denied all the allegations, and sued after it was revealed that Gallagher had repeatedly hacked into Chiquita's voice-mail system. (No evidence ever indicated that McWhirter was aware of Gallagher's crime or a participant.) A special prosecutor was appointed to investigate, because the elected prosecutor at the time had ties to Carl Lindner, Jr. On June 28, 1998, the Enquirer retracted the entire series of stories, published a front-page apology, and paid the company a multi-million-dollar settlement. The Columbia Journalism Review reported both $14 million and $50 million for the amount. Chiquita's Annual Report mentions 'a cash settlement in excess of $10 million'. One of the reporters, Gallagher, was fired and prosecuted and the paper's editor, Lawrence K. Beaupre, was transferred to the Gannett's headquarters amid allegations that he ignored the paper's usual procedures on fact-checking in order to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Chiquita and Social Action Groups

In 1998, a coalition of social activist groups, led by EUROBAN (European Banana Action Network), itself a coalition of labor and environmental groups, chose to target the banana industry in general and Chiquita in particular to create a new climate of corporate social responsibility. Their strategy was to encourage small farming of bananas rather than large scale monoculture, and to push for subsidies and other government relief to level the field for small producers. The Fair Trade movement, which sought to influence consumers to purchase the products of smallholders also joined in the action. As a result of this pressure, changes in corporate management, and new patterns of global competition, according to J. Gary Taylor and Patricia Scharlin, Chiquita partnered with the Rainforest Alliance, an environmental group dedicated to preserving the rainforest, and made major reforms in the way they plant and protect their bananas, especially in the use of pesticides, but also to some extent in other aspects of the corporate culture.[7]

Payments to paramilitary groups

On March 14, 2007, Chiquita Brands was fined $25 million as part of a settlement with the United States Justice Department for having ties to Colombian paramilitary groups. According to court documents, between 1997 and 2004, officers of a Chiquita subsidiary paid approximately $1.7 million to the right-wing United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), in exchange for local, employee protection in Colombia's volatile banana harvesting zone. Similar payments were also made to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), as well as the National Liberation Army (ELN) from 1989 to 1997, both left-wing organizations.[8][9] All three of these groups are on the U.S. State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

According to a Wall Street Journal report in 2004,[10] outside attorneys for Chiquita notified the company that the payments violated U.S. anti-terrorism laws and should not continue. However, payments to the groups continued until Chiquita sold its subsidiary, Banadex, in June 2004.

Chiquita currently faces serious charges in a lawsuit issued in June 2007. According to the attorney of 173 family members of victims of the AUC militia this could be the biggest terrorist case in history and may put Chiquita out of business. Terry Collingsworth, a lawyer with International Rights Advocates who is involved with the multi-million dollar litigation, said: "This is a landmark case, maybe the biggest terrorism case in history. In terms of casualties, it's the size of three World Trade Center attacks."[11]

Despite reaching a deal with US prosecutors, Chiquita Brands International still may have to face criminal charges in Colombia, which could even include the extradition of some of its current and former board members. Specifically, on December 7, 2007, "the 29th Specialized District Attorney's Office in Medellín called the board members of Chiquita […] to make statements concerning charges for conspiracy to commit an aggravated crime and financing illegal armed groups. The court order mentions Robert Fisher, Steven G. Wars, Carl H. Linder, Durk Jaguer, Jeffrey Benjamin, Morten Amtzen, Roderick Hills (former committee director of Chiquita), Cyrus F. Freidheim (former general director and most recently president and CEO of a large media group), and Robert Olson, former legal counsel. The nine of them, according to the initial data obtained by the Attorney General's Office, knew of the illegal operation through which 1.7 million dollars were transferred to the AUC, a charge to which Chiquita has already admitted and for which the US justice system fined it 25 million dollars."[12]

Chiquita has sued to prevent the United States government from releasing files about their illegal payments to Colombian left-wing terrorist and right-wing paramilitary groups.

Alleged continuing workers' rights violations

In May 2007, the French non-governmental organization (NGO) "Peuples Solidaires" publicly accused the Compañia Bananera Atlántica Limitada (COBAL), a Chiquita subsidiary, of knowingly violating what the NGO describes as "its workers' basic rights" and endangering their families' health and their own. Allegedly, the banana firm has carelessly exposed labourers at the Coyol plantation in Costa Rica to highly toxic pesticides on multiple occasions. Additionally, the human rights group accuses the company of using a private militia to intimidate workers. Finally, Peuples Solidaires claims that Chiquita, despite a regional agreement between the company and local unions requiring prompt investigation of grievances, has ignored certain union complaints for more than a year.[15] Furthermore Chiquita company practices have allegedly led to what some experts have described as the proliferation of the "Blood Banana" market. Regional harvesters in Manaus, Brazil were reportedly forced to work through hurricane-like conditions in order to meet production timetables. Upon review of the United States Justice Department in 2009 a link was established between Chiquita and its business partner Meijer Co. a regional supermarket chain in the Mid-Western United States. The results of the Justice Department investigation led to a $13 Million settlement paid out by both Meijer and Chiquita to the workers.

Human rights violations in literature

Several authors have denounced human rights violations committed by the United Fruit Company (now Chiquita). The most important ones are United Fruit Company. Another author in Costa Rica, Carlos Luis Fallas, wrote Mamita Yunai (Yunai is a deformation of the word "united").

The movie "Life & Debt" describes a modern instance of the company, or its sub-managers, killing strikers.

Chiquita Brands International and European Union's common banana import policy

The biggest banana firm is Chiquita and the largest market for bananas is European. In 1993, the European Union established a new regime on banana imports. Title IV provided for significant changes in banana import patterns. The European Commission divides banana into four categories: Latin American; non-ACP (Africa, Caribbean, Pacific) regions which are called "third country imports"; "traditional" ACP imports; "non-traditional" ACP imports. "Third country" imports were restricted to a two million ton quota, with in-quota volumes dutiable at 100ECU/mt. Imports in excess of the quota were dutiable at 850 ECU/mt. By contrast, "traditional" ACP imports were granted duty free access to the European market. "Non-traditional" ACP imports were subject to the two million ton quota free of duty, and imports above the quota were dutiable at 750 ECU/mt. In addition, "third country" and "Non-traditional" ACP banana sources were restricted by a licensing provision, while "traditional" sources were given automatic, non-restrictive licenses. The majority of Chiquita's banana plantations are in Latin America. This policy of the EU constrains Chiquita's growth. In response to this policy, Chiquita first filed a section 301 Petition with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). The USTR rejected the petition but Section 301 has become a powerful tool for focusing public attention on the problems. Carl Lindner approached Kansas Senator Bob Dole and asked him to help but Dole's campaign on behalf of Chiquita ended with unwanted attention when a non-profit advocacy group based in Washington noted that Lindner and his companies were the second-largest contributors of "soft-money" to the political party.

See also

Cincinnati portal
Ohio portal
Companies portal
Food portal

References

Further reading

  • Mike Gallagher & Cameron McWhirter, "Chiquita Secrets Revealed," Cincinnati Enquirer, May 3, 1998.
  • "The Business and Human Rights Management Report—Chiquita Brands International", Ethical Corporate Magazine, Nov. 2004.
  • "The Importance of Corporate Responsibility", Economist Intelligence Unit, January 2005.
  • "Chiquita Brands: A Turnaround That Is Here to Stay", Winslow Environmental News, January 2004.
  • "The banana giant that found its gentle side", 'Financial Times, December 2002
  • '"Chiquita Wins Raves for Outstanding Sustainability Reporting", Greenbiz.com, April 3, 2003

External links

  • Chiquita Brands International official site
  • Chiquita Bananas official site
  • United Fruit Historical Society: This site contains a detailed chronology of the history of Chiquita, biographies of the company's main protagonists, and an extensive bibliography.
  • CounterPunch, January 12, 2010
  • Chiquita: Between Life and Law Al Jazeera, June 2009
  • The Chiquita Papers at The National Security Archive
  • Associated Press, September 2013.
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