Ecuador exports bananas all over the globe and is one of the largest exporters of bananas in the world. Despite this, there are a lot of small growers in the country for whom it is more difficult to reach the major global market. Asociación Agraria Bananera Fincas de El Oro is an organization of small producers with the aim of helping these producers market their bananas in a fair and equitable manner.
The organization was founded in 2012 with the intention of marketing and exporting bananas, as well as bringing added value to the products. The organization today has 47 partners and has Fair Trade, Global Gap, and Rainforest certifications. Henry Fernandez is part of Fincas de El Oro, and he explains: “We are an organization of small producers and we work together with other organizations in Ecuador to fight for the well-being of our farmers. We work to achieve better opportunities in the markets, as well as greater commercial stability. Our work is focused on social, environmental, and labor aspects.”
Pandemic increases costs
Due to the pandemic, export costs have increased which has brought on unique challenges for the growers and the association. “We have seen increased costs in the production of the bananas. This is because of the greater use of the personal protective equipment, and other supplies that were used to ensure the health and safety of the workers. Overall, the commercial aspect of our operation was reduced by approximately 20% due to the pandemic,” says Fernandez.
Bringing added value to the bananas
While bananas used to be an exotic product, today they are widely consumed around the world and have become a staple item in produce aisles. This has also increased the competition on the market and made it more difficult for small growers to be profitable in their work. That is why for Fincas de El Oro, one of the focuses lies on bringing increased value to the products for their growers.
“The organization was created with the aim of marketing our bananas as Fair Trade, and this is a certification we’ve had since 2013. All of our box volumes have individual Global Gap certification for each farm, and we also work with the Rainforest certification,” Fernandez says. Additionally, the association also works with a large volume of organic bananas. “We currently export an average of 15,000 boxes per week, and of these 8,000 are organic, and 7,000 are conventional. Of the organic bananas that we sell, 80% is Fair Trade certified. 15% of the conventional bananas are also Fair Trade certified,” Fernandez adds.
The association’s main export destinations are Germany, France, and Russia. Fernandez concludes: “Our objective is to maintain sales for Germany and other EU countries, because their markets give great commercial and economic stability.”