Data published by the Central Bank of Ecuador (ECB) confirms that banana and plantain exports between January and August 2021 have decreased when compared to the same period of the previous year. In this period, shipments of Musaceae to international markets reached a value of 2,345 million dollars, i.e. 10% less than the 2,611 million achieved in the same period of the previous year. Meanwhile, the volume of fruit exported totaled 4.7 million tons, i.e. 6% less than the 5 million tons exported in the same period of last year.
"The fall in banana exports in 2021 is due to the increase in production and in export costs, as well as to the lack of containers and high shipping freight, which have affected the competitiveness of the banana sector and other sectors," stated Richard Salazar, the Executive Director of the Banana Marketing and Export Association (Acorbanec).
According to data from the Banana Cluster, which brings together associations of banana producers and exporters in the country, the prices of essential inputs such as fertilizers have increased by 35 to 45% this year. The prices of cardboard and plastic, materials necessary for this industry, have gone up by 30% and 45%, respectively. In addition, the sector has had production losses due to the destination markets' new maximum residue limits (MRLs) and the application of the certified market's standards.
The adoption of biosecurity measures to prevent Fusarium Race 4 has also had an impact on the sector, as well as the implementation of security measures to avoid contamination of containers with illegal substances.
Moreover, ocean freight, in general, has increased by up to 62% due to the global shortage of containers.
“These costs have a direct and negative impact on the economic sustainability and competitiveness of the banana industry, which has suffered incalculable damage due to the increasing occurrence of natural phenomena in the region and has not been immune to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, having to implement all the necessary measures to safeguard global food security and protect the health of agricultural workers,” the Cluster stated.
The union also stated that, in 2021, the price of bananas had suffered the most catastrophic decrease it had faced in the last 10 years. According to the Cirad agronomic research center, on average, a box of bananas weighing 18.5 kilos was marketed at 11.44 euro (i.e. US 13.20) in the European Union in 2021, while in 2019, it was marketed at 12.20 euro ($ 14.15).