Ecuadorian govt steps up banana assistance measures

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Ecuadorian govt steps up banana assistance measures

The Ecuadorian Government has extended its emergency banana grower assistance line for another eight weeks, website reported.

The announcement followed a tense meeting between the industry and Agricultural Minister Staynley Vera, who pledged strategies to improve the industry's competitiveness.

The government announced on Aug. 18 it would help exporters meet the official price of US$5.50 per 43lbs (19.5kg) box by buying up to one million bunches per week from growers.

Agriculture minister Staynley Vera

In a statement, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Aquaculture and Fisheries (MAGAP) said the new phase would continue with subsidies, along with fumigation against black sigatoka disease for small farmers with landholdings of up to 25 hectares.

When asked what message he would like to give to international banana markets, Vera said Ecuador would be in the game for the long haul but prices needed to go up.

"We will keep production and make efforts to improve the quality, and will be thinking about improving the price because we need it to improve, because if they want the quality that we have they must understand that the price needs to improve," he said.

Prior to the announcement exporters were critical of the initiative claiming producers were undersupplying the government in a bid to reduce exports by 25% to stem oversupply and low prices in international markets.

Agricultural Center Machala president Paul Gonzalez, told website that farmers preferred to sell the fruit for up to US$4 a box rather than rely totally on the US$2 paid by MAGAP .

Ecuador Association of Banana Exporters (AEBE) preliminary statistics show volumes this year are likely to be up on 2010 figures of 265.5 million boxes. Until the week of Jul. 30 the country’s year-on-year shipments were up 9.64% to 172.76 million boxes.

Related story: Ecuador to give US$2 subsidy per banana bunch

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