The high demand for maritime freight to transport cargo, especially from regions such as Asia (up until May, China alone had increased its exports by up to 45%), is causing companies to neglect orders originating from Latin America. When exporters finally get access to the service, they must be willing to pay up to 5 times more for it, as rates are currently in the hands of global supply and demand.
The phenomenon began in November of last year, but it's getting worse this year and Ecuador is already beginning to measure the impact this will have on its export and import costs, stated Richard Salazar, the president of the Banana Marketing and Export Association from Ecuador (Acorbanec). According to Salazar, the shortage of containers has also affected the banana sector.
"Shipping companies are giving priority to routes where containers go and return full. As a result, they are neglecting moving empty containers. This has generated a shortage of containers and a reduction of shipping spaces for fruit. In our case, it's by container space, rather than by ship as such. So the shipping companies are servicing the bananas that are leaving by contract, but even some of these loads are being left behind,” stated Salazar.
As a result, there was a 3% reduction in shipments up until May, which means the country has exported about 5 million boxes less, Salazar stated. The damage could have been greater, he said, but it was compensated by the country's improved supply in the current season. “We had less production due to climatic factors; otherwise, things would have been worse," he said.
Fernando Donoso, the president of the Maritime Chamber of Ecuador, spoke about this scenario. “We don't know what will happen. There are economies that have not yet fully reactivated. This is the result of a combination of factors that no one imagined would occur. Returning to normality is not easy, because it is not so easy to build ships or containers.”