Ecuador's banana exports to rebound

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Ecuador's banana exports to rebound

In 2023, the industry projected a 25% drop in banana production. To find out if this projection remains or has been reversed, spoke with Leonidas Estrada, president of the Regional Corporation of Ecuadorian Banana Growers (AGROBAN), who said that initial projections were luckily wrong.

“So far in 2024, from January to April, we are on par with 2023," said Estrada.

He analyzed the sector and said that in recent years, they have projected a productive decline due to the effects of the pandemic, post-pandemic, and the war between Ukraine and Russia, the latter being a country of great relevance for Ecuadorian exports.

However, he pointed out that exports continued to Russia.

"The problem was that prices fell and people began to divert fruit to other markets, which collapsed the market price. In 2022, we had between 10 and 15 weeks of super low prices, which hindered cash flow and led many farms to stop investing in plantation maintenance,” he said.

During that period in 2022, he said they observed a drop in investments in plantations "because of the issues from the war, people stopped fertilizing, and at the end of 2023, as there was no fruit, the price shot up, allowing people to capitalize and start investing in plantations."

Because of this, last year, the volume of production increased by 8% year-to-year.

Regarding the El Niño phenomenon, Estrada said that in his opinion, it did not bring along the amount of rain it normally does, affecting production less than expected.

"The initial forecasted drop of 25% did not happen. So in 2023, we had almost an 8% increase in production,” he said.

With a more promising 2023 than initially projected, Estrada said that for 2024 there should be a maximum increase of 5% in production.

Climate in 2024

Undoubtedly, the climate is a key player in agricultural production, and with La Niña phenomenon expected for this year, Estrada said it should be characterized by drought.

However, he pointed out that in Ecuador, all banana plantations are irrigated, so the drought should not affect production. 

He said that in the coastal regions of Ecuador, particularly between May and June there is a change of seasons, from high temperatures and rain to drought and some low temperatures: “In the banana zone, normally what producers do at this stage is use hormonal products, bioregulators that help control stress. Because in the rainy and hot season, metabolism is more accelerated, the banana bunch fills up faster and, therefore, you harvest bunches that are at least 9-10 weeks old. In the cold season or in our summer, the bunch is harvested at about 13-14 weeks, because the fruits take longer to fill because the metabolism of the plant is slowed down."


When asked about markets, Estrada explained that in Ecuador they were pioneers in opening new global markets, especially in the European Community. “We started with the banana cluster and incorporated Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, and Peru, including banana-producing countries in Africa.”

The cluster was created in 2022 due to the law of due diligence imposed in Germany and other countries, to comply with the living wage of workers in the production of bananas.

“Luckily for Ecuador, we do comply with the law, we are the only country recognized by the FAO that does comply with the living wage requirement,” he said. 

Estrada emphasized that Russia has an important role in banana exports as it accounts for about 22% of production every year. On the other hand, the European Community has a 30% share and the United States 12%.

He explained that about 30 years ago Ecuador sent 40% of its production to the United States, “but laws in Ecuador which prohibited extra plantings, caused Central American countries like Guatemala to take advantage of the situation and began to grow and we were taking space from Ecuador because obviously, they have more competitive costs in terms of transportation.

Related article: Ecuadorian banana sector recovering amid challenges

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