Banana acreage in Ecuador has fallen by 29,000ha as a loss of competitiveness and black sigatoka continue to take their toll on the industry. Government figures, presented at IV World Banana Summit held in Guayaquíl this week, show planted area fell from 200,000ha in January 2012 to 171,000ha in February 2013, a drop of 14.5 per cent.
The assembled delegates heard that demand in Europe, the Middle East and Africa for Ecuadorean bananas had fallen as buyers switched to cheaper alternatives from Colombia, Peru and other Central American producers. Eduardo Ledesma, president of the National Banana Exporters Association AEBE (pictured), said the average price per box for Ecuadorean bananas was US$8.95, compared with prices of US$8.00-US$8.35 for other producers. However, he said this gap was set to narrow in the first quarter of 2014 to US$0.35.
AEBE figures show that Ecuador shipped 189m boxes between January and September 2013 compared with 190m in the year-earlier period. The industry generates revenues of around US$1.7bn a year.
The summit heard how many producers are switching to alternative crops such as cocoa and yucca as the costs associated with banana cultivation continued to climb. Fighting black sigatoka is estimated to cost growers between US$800 and US$1,000 per hectare, equivalent to 35 per cent of total production costs.