Ecuadorian banana exports increased by 4% in the first half of this year when compared to the same period of 2018, reporting benefits for 1.706 billion dollars. The fruit was exported to 43 markets, mainly to Russia, the US, China, and the European Union, although in the first semester it lost ground in the first two.
According to the Association of Banana Exporters of Ecuador (AEBE), the consumption of Ecuadorian bananas in the US fell by 2%, because Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Colombia offer a cheaper banana there. The Russian market fell due to the ruble's loss of purchasing power caused by the US and EU's economic sanctions.
According to Daniel Legarda, the president of the Federation of Exporters of Ecuador, logistics in the country are also expensive compared to other countries. Colombia, for example, has the advantage of having a port in the Atlantic and being able to avoid the Panama Canal. Ecuador's container costs are 20% more expensive, Legarda stated.
China compensated for this situation. Up until June, shipments of fruit to that destination accounted for 6.8% of all shipments, double the amount achieved in the first six months of last year.
Currently, the sector also faces two new risk factors.
The first is the devastating fungus Fusarium Race 4 (Foc R4t). After the presence of this pathogen was confirmed in the department of La Guajira, Colombia, the Association of Banana Producers of Ecuador (Aprobanec) proposed actions to prevent its entry into Ecuadorian territory, such as fumigation and sterilization of vehicles at border crossings , and the application of organic measures (microorganisms in the soil) to neutralize the fungus. The union also plans to create the National Banana Institute (Ineban) to monitor the sector's productivity and to investigate new varieties that are resistant to diseases.
A second risk factor is a reform of the law that threatens to limit the sector, as it establishes the prohibition of sowing new hectares of banana, plantain, and baby bananas. According to Gustavo Marin, the director of Agroban, the permanence of this article affects the sector's growth, the generation of employment, investment, and free competition.
There are 300,000 hectares of Musaceae in the country, which generate jobs for 17% of the economically active population.