The world's main banana importers are looking for new opportunities; the goal is to find countries that still have something Ecuador lost: a preferential treatment from the market with the highest prices, the European Union.
Del Monte found cheaper bananas in Costa Rica, where it has made large investments, and is now headed towards Panama, which used to be a great banana producer until Fusarium Race 4 caused severe losses to some of its largest plantations.
Dole arranged a long-term partnership association with producers in Mozambique. The multinational will take over all sales operations and become Matanuska Mozambique's exclusive distributor in the Middle East and Europe. African, Caribbean and Pacific countries are subject to lower tariffs when exporting to the EU.
The company's subsidiary in Honduras will re-build the plantations destroyed by hurricane Mitch in 1998. If a plantation's average yield is of 2,500 boxes per hectare, per year, the investment will result in the production of 575,000 boxes, which will likely be shipped to the U.S. market. According to the producer Pompilio Esponiza, this should not have an impact on Ecuadorian producers as long as they manage to increase productivity.
In 2013, Ecuador exported a total of 256 million boxes of bananas worldwide; barely 2.9% more than in 2012, but 10% less than in 2011. Russia's demand helped in keeping the balance, despite exports to the European Union dropping by 25% compared to 2012; very far from the 90 million boxes shipped three years ago and the 87 million of 2010, when the free trade agreements between the EU, Colombia, Peru and Central America had yet to come into force.