Italy has been an important country for Ecuadorian bananas; both a significant buyer and a point of entry for the fruit to other European countries, as well as to East and Central Asia. Before the coronavirus crisis, Italy was the gateway to many of the 17.5 million banana boxes that Ecuador marketed in 2019 in Ukraine, Georgia, Albania, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Montenegro, Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan. However, the Mediterranean country is currently dealing with a different scenario.
Exporters told EXPRESO that the shipments now arriving in those countries, which account for 4.91% of Ecuador's banana sales, are doing so through the Black Sea.
Turkey is also having problems with the cargo; many containers that were intended for Muslim countries, such as Iran or Iraq, are being held there.
As a block, the Middle East became the third largest destination for banana exports, with a 14.86% share, according to data from the Banana Marketing and Export Association (Acorbanec). 53.05 million boxes were exported in 2019; 9.21% more.
The increase in shipments has been recorded in Turkey (52.38%), Iraq (6.32%), United Arab Emirates (4.21%), Oman (44.52%), Jordan (21.56%) and Qatar (14.56%). There have been significant reductions in Saudi Arabia (-20.29%) and Kuwait (-4.76%), which are mostly supplied by the Philippines, and also in Iran (-43.99%) as a result of the economic blockade of the United States.
This Middle Eastern market and East Asia have absorbed the fruit that has not been sold in the European Union (EU), where sales, before the coronavirus crisis, had dropped by almost 50% in Italy and by 25.73 % in Germany.
From January to December 2019, banana exports to East Asia stood at 29.42 million boxes, which entails an increase of 37.82% compared to the same period of 2018. This is a result of China and Japan buying more bananas.
China and Japan
According to Acorbanec, China's purchases have increased by 63.99% and Japan's by 9.26% (despite the 20% tariff); however, there has also been a 20.51% reduction in South Korea. The coronavirus crisis will also have an impact on those markets this month. There are few containers available.