Ecuador's Banana Cluster estimates that the country could export 370 to 390 million boxes of bananas this year, despite the 3.8% drop in shipments in the first quarter of 2021.
In that period, the country exported 104 million boxes, i.e. 4 million boxes less than the 108 million boxes it exported in the same quarter of 2020, according to data presented by Jose Antonio Hidalgo, the Executive Director of AEBE. Europe was the main destination market accounting for 36.57% of total shipments. It was followed by Russia with 20.65%. The Middle East bought fewer volumes this quarter and accounted for 11% of shipments, equaling the US. Africa and the Southern Cone had the highest growth: 75.3% and 13.1%, respectively.
According to Richard Salazar, a representative for Acorbanec, despite the challenges it has faced, the Ecuadorian banana sector maintains its resilience in the markets and its leading role as a generator of foreign exchange. The sector has had to overcome many challenges since the arrival of the pandemic, he stated. These challenges include the closing of borders, especially in the Middle East and Russia; the intermittence of orders, which has caused a change in the conditions of the contracts in prices and volumes; a decline in demand, especially in Asia and the US; and the devaluation of the currencies in Russia and Middle Eastern countries due to the fall in oil prices and to the sanctions imposed by the US.
Challenges in the coming years
The Banana Cluster has identified some of the great internal and external challenges that the sector will face to improve its competitiveness in the markets.
In this regard, they said, the activity is shackled by all kinds of regulations. Many control bodies have oversight over the sector tying up the activity instead of invigorating it.
The representatives of the Banana Cluster have been working jointly on the issue of tax pressure. The execution of the draw back system would allow relief in the cash flows of producers and exporters so they can deal with their financial issues. The sector is also worried about the security policy in ports and container yards without increasing costs for exporters. They are working to minimize these risks.
In addition, the sector is worried about the fall of the East Asian market, a task that the new Government must assume, due to the tariff boycott that Ecuador has with countries, such as South Korea and China.