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Ecuador to export 300 million boxes of bananas in 2015

Luis Vivanco Pincay owns a farm at El Retiro, in the province of El Oro. Five years ago, in the small land that he received as an inheritance from his father, he produced between 15 and 30 boxes of bananas a week.

Currently, Vivanco produces between 75 and 100 boxes per week thanks to the contracts he has for the sale of the fruit and to associating, he says, adding that he is a member of El Retiro Corporation, which has helped him expedite procedures and has given him technical assistance.

Likewise, the members of the Association of Banana Producers and Tropical Fruits (Aprobaf), and the Costa Verde Association in Machala, have had a considerably increase in their harvest.

According to Fernando Guaman Andrade, president of Aprobaf, the association's 50 partners produce 47,000 boxes of bananas for export weekly on 110 hectares. Meanwhile, Carlos Orozco Espinoza, one of the 114 members of Costa Verde, said that they procured and marketed 35,000 boxes of fruit every week.

Orozco indicated that the goal for next year was to increase production and export 50,000 boxes per week, i.e. an increase of approximately 40%.

According to the Survey of Continuous Agricultural Production (Espac) Ecuador's banana production went from 5,995,527 metric tons in 2013 to 6,907,376 tons in 2014.

Espac's report states that, in December 2014, Ecuador had 196,673 hectares planted with bananas and 186,225 hectares that had been harvested.

Since the survey is conducted every year the production figures for 2015 will be available at the beginning of 2016.

The provinces with the highest production are: Los Rios, Guayas, and El Oro, which concentrate 93% of the banana crops in the country.

According to provisional data of the Central Bank, the increase was also reflected in export figures. Thus, between January and August this year, foreign sales of Ecuadorian bananas increased when compared to the previous year.

So far this year, Ecuador has exported 4,131,404 tons of bananas, 6.6% more than the 3,855,986 tons sold in 2014.

In monetary terms, the country has made of $1.858 million dollars this year against the $1.664 million in 2014.

According to the Central Bank, there's been a 7.1% variation in weight and 11.6% in value.

Eduardo Ledesma, executive director of the Association of Banana Exporters of Ecuador (AEBE), stated that, if the phenomenon of El Niño didn't affect the country until December, Ecuador would export 300 million boxes this year, about 50 million boxes more than Colombia and Costa Rica together.

Carol Chehab, secretary of Marketing of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Aquaculture and Fisheries (Magap), said that one of the most important markets for the Ecuadorian banana sector is the European Union, and that she expected exports of that fruit would increase after the agreement reached with the EU comes into effect.

Key points
Being associated and receiving ongoing technical assistance are the strategies to increase banana production.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Aquaculture and Fisheries performs these strategies via the Banana Development Strategy (EDB-Magap), which has been in force since April 2013, and will continue until 2017.

"The Magap helped us throughout the process, from the very formation of the partnership to the issue of legal advice and enrolment in the Superintendency of Popular and Solidarity Economy (SEPS)," said Fernando Guaman, president of Aprobaf.

The farmers receive direct visits of technicians who check how their banana production has progressed and that share their knowledge on productivity issues.

The job of the 80 technicians deployed in the field is providing technical assistance to all small producers with up to 30 hectares of crops and their organizations.

76 organizations have 4,500 banana producers, i.e. almost 70% of the country's industry, and 27,000 hectares (about 30% of the national total).

Carlos Orozco Espinoza, a member of the Costa Verde Association, said that, "we have obtained support in procedures, technical assistance, crop processing, training, and assistance in schedules related to the weather, which has allowed us to enhance or labour and minimize costs."

The EDB-Magap has 4 strategic objectives: providing permanent, relevant and personalized technical assistance to each producer to increase the productivity of banana plantations.

To this end, they work in managing the crop's population, black sigatoka, irrigation and drainage, nutrition, preventive quality work (labor to protect the quality of banana bunch) and certifications (mainly Good Agricultural Practices and Organic certifications).

Another of their objectives is to provide technical assistance for strengthening partnerships, so that the organizations are able to generate services for their members and are able to be sustainable.

In addition, they provide technical assistance to access credits and support research and access to technologies.

The goal of these actions is that Ecuador continues to be the biggest exporter of bananas in the world and that more than 58 countries who acquired its bananas in 2014 continue demanding this fruit. 


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