Banana cultivation, the fruit that has catapulted Ecuador into global export markets, only started to be promoted in the country in the 1940s when Clemente Yerovi, the Minister of Economy of President's Galo Plaza Lasso's administration, promoted its planting and export. The boom in this trade was exponential. In 1948 the country produced 3.8 million bunches and in 1952, Ecuador produced and exported 16 million bunches, stated Vicente Wong, the president of Rey Banano del Pacífico (Reybanpac), a banana producing and exporting company that has been in Ecuador for 42 years.
In the 1950s, the American multinational United Fruit expanded this crop in the country with investment and planting in the Tenguel area. “Back then producers grew the Gross Michell variety and everything was sold and exported in bunches covered in banana chanta (a fiber extracted from the stem of the banana plant). In the 60s, cardboard boxes began to be used, which helped in the logistics in refrigerated ships,” stated Wong. The agro-export industry was started by American and German multinationals, such as United and Grupo Alemán, which were later joined by other entrepreneurs who made history in the industry, such as Luis Noboa Naranjo, who led exports for more than 30 years, and Esteban Quirola.
The arrival of the Cavendish variety
An important varietal change took place in Ecuador in the 1960s when producers replaced the Gross Michell banana with the Cavendish variety, which was introduced in 1967 due to the expansion of the Fusarium Race 1, stated Richard Salazar, the president of the Banana Export and Marketing Association (Acorbanec).
According to Salazar, the integration of Ecuador in the world market was possible due to the convergence of ecological factors (lower incidence of pests and absence of damage caused by cyclones), socioeconomic factors (lower wages than in Central America), and political factors (as the government issued laws that benefited the banana sector).
The banana boom continued in subsequent decades, in the 1980s with the opening of the Chinese market, in the 1990s with the opening of the Korean and Mediterranean markets, and in the 2000s with the appearance of the container, which has allowed the industry to currently generate more than $ 3 billion.
"We've been the world's leading banana exporter since 1964. In 2019 we had a 33% share worldwide as we exported more than 357 million boxes that were produced by 8,581 producers on nearly 200,000 hectares," Salazar said.