NOVA MEDIA PUBLISHING INC.

Ecuador: Banana Farms Improve Yield

9.10.2020

Bananas once again became Ecuador's main non-oil export product, displacing shrimp to second place. Although this product has always reached the first places on the podium, this year one factor, in particular, had an influence: the investments made in 2019 boosted the volume of exports until August. Fruit exports until that month were 260.6 million boxes, 8.45% more than that exported in the same period of 2019 and even a figure higher than that reached in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The main strategy was to focus on making investments to improve technology in the field, says Fabricio Espinoza, manager of the Probana company and commercial director of the Asociación de Agricultores Bananeros del Litoral (Asoagribal). In this sense, the producers bet on replanting. 

On the farms, work was done on the soil, the design of new irrigation systems with shorter distances, the application of state-of-the-art technology to reach yields of over 3,000 boxes per hectare in the year, among other decisions. In Ecuador, some 8,000 ha of bananas were planted and replanted in Los Ríos, Guayas and El Oro. These plantations began to produce as of November 2019, which generated a greater exportable supply this year. In January alone, the country shipped more than 37 million boxes of the fruit as a result of these investments. The behaviour was also tied to the high season for bananas. 

The excellent conditions and investments have allowed small, medium and large producers to supply world demand this year, says Vicente Wong, president of Reybanpac, a firm that has a 6.87% share in the international fruit trade. Added to this factor is the record of higher demand in the different destination markets, except the US. 

Ecuador's banana sector works continuously to maintain the reputation it has built over the years," says the businessman. The farms have incorporated good agricultural practices as part of the certifications such as Global Gap and Rainforest. Besides, they have been shielded with structures of biosecurity to protect plantations from possible threats, among them Fusarium Raza 4. Despite the good performance of exports so far this year and the weight it has in international trade, the sector dealt with challenging aspects of both logistics and prices. José Antonio Hidalgo, executive director of the Association of Banana Exporters of Ecuador (AEBE), affirms that -in the critical months of the pandemic- there were problems with emerging markets, to which more than 60% of the addition in production goes, there was absenteeism in ports, container damming and border closures. Another negative element was the delay in payments by some buyers and the reduction in the prices for the box of fruit. This second factor was produced by the impact on purchasing power in certain countries. Hidalgo believes that Ecuador is increasing its global presence thanks to current trade agreements (European Union and EFTA), but argues that it is still necessary to aim for greater diversification to compete better. That is why he is confident that a treaty with Asian countries will represent an opportunity. 

Bananas are marketed in more than 11 destinations, and its main markets are the European Union, Russia and the Middle East. 

The results of the investments made in the field are reflected up to nine months later. For this reason, the rebound of this year. 

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