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Ecuador: Banana Sector Does Not Stop Shipments

3.4.2020

The Ecuadorian banana industry continues despite the logistics problems caused by some truck drivers who have decided not to work which has created delays both by preventing the distribution of cardboard in the exporters’ warehouses and farms as well as in the movement of containers.

In some cases, such as in the province of El Oro, there were mayors who suggested stopping banana shipments through the ports of Ecuador. On the other hand, some banana leaders in the same province described the request as "an irresponsible act", because this would mean the loss of more than US$6 million dollars a week, according to local media reports.

Banana growers argue that they are working under strict safety regulations to protect personnel from the spread of Covid-19. With the health emergency, the protection of personnel is being guaranteed with the delivery of gloves, masks and supplies for their asepsis.

Another of the measures adopted, focuses precisely on the issue of shipping, carrying out this work in less time, going from 5 days to no more than three to avoid exposing workers.

Regarding the request of the mayor of El Guabo, it came after the first case of Covid-19 in that city was confirmed, as reported by a local newspaper. Álvarez urged small, medium and large producers "to stop their fruit shipment processes" to avoid that those who are engaged in agricultural activity may be exposed to contracting the virus.

"The only proven way to combat the virus is to isolate citizens," said Álvarez, who proposed that day labourers be allowed to stay away from the plantations.

Although producers are clear that human life is a priority, and that social distancing and the use of masks and gloves are imperative, they insisted that paralyzing is not the solution, because it is a cyclical activity that is at its highest point of production.

According to what was reported in the local press, the banana sector informed the Minister of Agriculture, Xavier Lazo and the Vice President of the Republic Other Sonnenholzner, about the request of the local authorities so that members of the Government could assess whether the activity should be paralyzed and in turn give possible guidelines to be followed.

The banana producing and exporting sector has been among the few sectors that were still active during the health emergency that the country is experiencing due to the COVID-19 outbreak, although with certain "problems", recognized the executive president of AEBE, the Association of Banana Exporters, Juan José Hidalgo.

Without updated March figures to show the impact on activity Hidalgo hopes that this data will be available this month, since he assured that they monitor them week by week.

"It has been possible to coordinate actions to keep the activity running within the protocols issued by the Emergency Operations Committee (COE), we are as a sector working in a coordinated way to defend the jobs and safety of our workers," said Hidalgo, who assured, however, that the activity is not 100%.

Byron Paredes, president of the Association of Banana Producers of Ecuador, expressed the concern of this sector, although he pointed out that agricultural activity has not been paralyzed and they manage to work with some normality using safe practices. Despite this he also recognizes that there are problems, especially logistics.

"We have had information that some truck drivers have been infected with the coronavirus and are panicking and do not want to go to work, especially in Guayaquil, so there is already an impact on this issue. Hopefully this will be solved with the biosecurity measures we are taking on the farms," said the leader.

Regarding the commercialization, Paredes assured that all the fruit that is produced is being exported, but the one that is sold spot (without a contract) comes out at very low prices.

In addition, regarding the fruit that comes out under contracts, he pointed out that certain companies have threatened that they will not be able to pay the fixed minimum price for the box of bananas.

The executive president of the Association of Banana Exporters assured that the banana production and agro-export chain complies with biosafety protocols such as disinfecting contact surfaces, restricting physical contact and practicing social distancing in work areas, in addition to personal hygiene measures and the use of care elements such as masks and antibacterials.

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