Ecuador: Blackberry to expand niche markets

Chilma Bajo is a community nestled in the parish of Maldonado. It is located in the north-western part of Carchi. It borders the Cerro Negro volcano and has a major expansion of productive land.

This small town was declared in emergency in 2015 because of the reactivation of the Chiles and Cerro Negro volcanoes. Producers of blackberry and passion fruit were not intimidated by the phenomenon and they continued working to consolidate production in the domestic market.

The Association of Agricultural Producers El Eden sees a productive opportunity in these two fruits. This peasant organization seeks to expand niche markets in the country.

Ventura Ruano, administrator of this organization, which groups 57 peasants in the area, said they had been changing the trading system.

"Previously, the intermediaries were responsible for negotiating the product, now we do it directly," said Ruano.

A collection center built through community work groups has helped strengthen this association. However, they need a cold room and logistics to mobilize their production to the markets in Imbabura and Pichincha.

They require $240,000 dollars to carry out this ambitious project and are currently working to obtain them. El Eden produces 7,000 kilos of blackberry per week and one of its purposes is to expand the market.

Although the fruit reaches the wholesale markets in Ibarra and Quito, the 57 partners of the association want to expand and start selling in other provinces. The fruits are transported in baskets or drawers.

Blackberry is one of those products that depends on supply and demand and that is affected by the exchange rate differential. El Eden is trying to place its production in the markets of central and southern Ecuador directly, through Pronaca and Proalimentos.

The association is demanding more effective customs controls to maintain price stability and to be competitive. A basket costs $5 dollars, but when there is an oversupply, because of smuggling, prices decrease to $3 dollars.

Henry Pozo, president of this group, said they were knocking doors in some institutions to raise funds and consolidate this initiative. He also stated that they aspired to have a pulper to offer derivatives.

Passion fruit
Thanks to an agreement with Proalimentos, it's viable to market 30,000 units of passion fruit every 15 days. This fruit distributed through the School Feeding Program, in various educational units in the province.

This sector is expected to cultivate between 7 and 8 hectares of passion fruit. One of the benefits of this fruit is that there is a harvest every three or four weeks. A passion fruit can cost 0.15 cents, said Pozo.

Source: El Telegrafo

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