This year there is 4% more banana production

Ecuador: Products made with bananas account for 5% of sales

Ecuador has been the world's leading banana exporter for 67 years. Behind the exports are plantations that require scientific research to maintain production and add value. "It is an intangible knowledge," said Daynet Sosa del Castillo, the general director of the Center for Biotechnological Research of Ecuador (CIBE) of the Polytechnic School of the Litoral that was founded in 2001 to apply biotechnology in the fields.

Part of the analysis concentrates on how to take full advantage of the crops. "We have found molecules and compounds that have an application in health and food. We have also taken advantage of the pseudostem, the rachis, and the leaves, which are waste that the sector doesn't use," said Patricia Manzano, a researcher at the CIBE.

Meanwhile, Pablo Chong, another researcher, is studying the pests' resistance to fungicides used to fight diseases. "Ecuador has the advantage of having a rainy and dry season. We know that the diseases are going to increase in the rainy season, but we can control them in dry season, that has allowed us to have shorter application cycles," he said.

Another threat to the crop that is being studied is the Panama disease, a tropical race 4 disease that is considered the most serious threat to these plants in history.

"Apart from being a food product, the banana plants can be used to make other things, such as hats or walls" said Eduardo Ledesma, the president of the Association of Banana Exporters of Ecuador (AEBE).

According to data from the Central Bank, the export of products made with bananas amounted to $142.4 million during 2017. That is 5% of the total obtained by banana and plantain sales.

Locally, shrimps surpassed bananas last year, but Ledesma said that processed products, such as chips or puree, are excluded from the fruit category. "They aren't included, but it's a good thing for the shrimp sector. I think its positive that all activities start fighting to rank first, that means the country is increasing its income."

This year there is 4% more banana production. The cultivation area has not expanded, so productivity has improved, he added. The renovation of the banana areas and the planting of some five thousand new hectares are key to production.

Ledesma said that the sector's productivity deficiencies are made evident when the sector hinders the entry of foreign investment to cultivate new areas: "They want to protect themselves because they are not efficient enough."

According to estimates, there are about 180,000 hectares planted with a productivity of two thousand boxes per hectare. However, Costa Rica produces 3,500 boxes per hectare and Guatemala more than 4,000 boxes, Ledesma said.


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