Ecuador sent a 15% lighter year-on-year volume of bananas to the EU in the first three months of the year, says the Banana Marketing and Export Association (ACORBANEC).
The association explains that the decrease was due to lower prices from other sources, such as Guatemala.
Ecuador's current law guarantees a minimum banana price for producers, which has made its category "much more expensive" than competitors', explains Richard Salazar, ACORBANEC administrator.
As a result, the nation has lost its competitive edge in the EU, where some countries such as Germany have opted to source from Central America, he adds.
"Guatemala is selling cheaper bananas at about 50 cents less than Ecuador and that has made some customers from abroad, especially Germany, prefer to buy more from Central America.
"Ecuador has not lowered its prices - it sells them at the same price. But the reaction was to buy more from the competition because we are much more expensive," Salazar points out.
According to ACORBANEC data, until March of this year, Ecuador's main market has been the EU, with 29% of its exports. Russia follows with 23%, then the Middle East with 12%, the U.S. with 11%, Asia with 7%, South America with 6% and the rest to other markets.
However, even as Ecuador's bananas failed to perform well in the EU market, it saw a 2% year-on-year increase of its total banana export volume during the first quarter.
"We have exported in 2019, an accumulated 95.3 million boxes, versus 93.3 million boxes in the same period last year," comments Salazar.
This 2% increase occurred even after Ecuador was affected by difficult growing conditions in winter. Extreme weather affected 5,000 hectares of bananas, of which about 3,000 were completely lost, he explains.
"It didn’t affect us because we increased productivity a little more (...) despite the fact that we lost hectares, we exported a little more," he adds.
As for the biggest purchasers of Ecuadorian bananas this year, Salazar names China and Japan as the top importers. They bought the most bananas from Ecuador, due to production problems in the Philippines, he elaborates.
A few other regions have also upped their imports. "There are other markets that have rebounded, especially in the Middle East, where we have exported 11% more," Salazar notes.
Regarding Ecuadorian banana exports to Brazil, Salazar points out "it is a potential market for Ecuador."
He adds: "It is not that it is a very representative market for us. In the last year, five containers have been exported."
He concludes that the nation could send around 80,000 boxes a week at the minimum. However, that number would depend on there being no restrictions on Ecuadorian banana imports entering Brazil, he concludes.