Ecuadorian soursop sector urges APHIS to resume negotiations

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Ecuadorian soursop sector urges APHIS to resume negotiations

The Ecuadorian soursop sector is growing restless. It’s been four years since negotiations began on the export of soursop to the United States. Yet an agreement on formal phytosanitary protocol is still pending. 

Fruit fly has been the main potential issue for Ecuadorian soursop shipments. To prevent infestations, the industry currently applies the same protocol to soursop as used for pitaya.

The Ecuadorian industry is hoping that the protocol will be sufficient to secure admission of traditionally grown soursop, even if organic fruit is left out, said Asoguanábana President Daniel Ortega in an interview with

"The U.S. has been a bit inflexible on the irradiation issue. The fruit will be able to enter once it receives treatment either in Ecuador or in the U.S., which eliminates our ability to market an organic product," Ortega said. "But at least it opens up the market." 

He called the lack of negotiations for organic soursop protocol, however, “perhaps the biggest debt of the previous negotiation.”

Delays in negotiations

Ecuador has submitted all phytosanitary requirements, Ortega said, and the sector is continuing to work with government officials and Agrocalidad, Ecuador’s main phytosanitary authority.

"I believe the delay is due to the transition we have had between governments. The fluidity of the exchange has been somewhat broken. We hope that the current government understands the importance of gaining access for this new value chain to a market as important as the U.S.," he said.

Ortega added that U.S. buyers are eager as well, and they have also been calling U.S. officials to move along with the process.

"If there is any change in the pitaya protocol that we’re applying currently, we will have to apply some modifications. But at least the 40% of us who have the capacity to export are ready to commit to the markets," he added.

Related article: Ecuadorian soursop industry betting on the U.S. market to increase global consumption

As for the remaining producers, Ortega says they will need time. Some will wait to invest in new protocols until they are certain the market will open.

"We are calling on both governments, so that they can give this matter the political importance it really has, due to the capacity to generate employment and commercial-political relations," he said.

2024 Season

As for the current crop, Ortega said El Niño conditions hit producers hard.

"At first, it was supposed to be very aggressive in terms of rainfall but ultimately, it has been rather scarce," he said. "We’ve had changes in temperatures, affecting flowering and productivity levels."

The other issue on Ortega's radar will be rebuilding trust, after an unrelated Ecuadorian brand experienced a food safety issue in the U.S. market. 

That company, Austrofoods, produces fruit pouches under the brand WanaBana, similar to the Spanish word for soursop, guanábana. In December, the U.S. FDA found lead in cinnamon used in Austrofoods' applesauce pouches, resulting in a recall.

"Sadly, the brand name is WanaBana, and its name is similar to the name of our fruit," he said. "Unfortunately, this creates a perception that this contamination could affect all products from Ecuador, and we are already trying to combat that perception."

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