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Ecuador: Potato and onion producers ask government to curb smuggling

According to domestic producers of potatoes and red onions, apart from having to deal with production costs that are higher than in Colombia and in Peru, they also have to compete against products being smuggled through the borders.
Fernando Pozo, a potato producer and member of the Council of Citizen Participation for the Agricultural Sector in Tungurahua, said that, due to the production costs and smuggling, producers were not making a profit and sometimes even lost money.

The traders from the Ambato wholesale market concur with producers on the need of conducting operations to prevent the smuggling of products through the northern and southern borders as these affect the national production and influence prices.

Mario Mayorga, president of the Merchants Association of the Central Wholesale Market, said that the lack of controls was causing the bankruptcy of small and medium producers, especially of potatoes and red onions.

According to statistics, nearly 60,000 quintals of red onions enter the country on a monthly basis.

Given the situation, government authorities have decided to increase control operations for a month. Council members will oversee this actions.

Mayorga believes that, apart from controlling the products at the wholesale market, authorities should also control the people who bring the products from Peru and Colombia.

Producers say the producing in Ecuador is twice as expensive as in the neighboring countries. They say that, including the transportation costs, the smuggled products are cheaper than their own.

Some producers are starting to change their land use so that it can be use as pasture for dairy cattle because of the losses they've had.

Fabian Valencia, director of the Ministry of Agriculture in Tungurahua, recognized that some farmers had preferred to shift production to pasture. "Producers who no longer generate profits from planting onions plant other things. It's something that happens."

He said that 50% of the area that was devoted to planting potatoes and peas in Quero is now pasture because of the smuggling and because of the negative effects that the ash from the Tungurahua volcano, which has been on an eruptive process for the past seventeen, has had on the region.

However, he noted, the authorities would activate controls. He also said that Tungurahua council members would oversight operations and that they expected to have a favorable response.


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