A SUPPORTING HAND

Ecuador 2019 | AGRICULTURE | INTERVIEW

Agripac not only has several initiatives to support and boost local producers but also focuses on boosting the sector through planting programs and training.

Gustavo Wray
BIOGRAPHY
Gustavo Wray joined Agripac in 2005 and was appointed General Manager in 2011. He has been an instrumental part of the team that led the broad product and service diversification of the company. Prior to Agripac, Wray was manager of operations and logistics at Unilever from 1999-2005. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering, specializing in industrial design, from ESPOL University in Ecuador, and obtained a Master’s degree in Operations Management from the University of Nottingham in the UK.

Agripac has significantly increased its presence in the country. Could you tell us more about the company's advancement in recent years?

Agripac's new strategy is to go directly to end customers—farmers, shrimp producers, growers, and so on. Most of our growth has come from our own retail chain. In 2018, we opened five new stores, reaching a total of 180 stores throughout the country. In mid-sized cities like Quevedo and Machala, we are building larger stores and warehouses to provide farmers with our whole range of products like seeds, fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides. In addition to our traditional products like shrimp feeds, chicken feeds, and cattle feeds, we have our own brands of dog and cat food, Buen Can and NutraPro, which is a premium brand. Both are produced in Ecuador and compete against imported products of multinationals. We are currently expanding our capacity with state-of-the-art machinery to ensure the quality and growth of our pet food line. In our agricultural division, we have a strong supply line for the production of maize, potatoes, vegetables, and flowers in the highlands.

What other products do you produce locally, and which products are imported?

Local products consist of around 30-40% of our total sales, while the rest is imported. All our animal feeds are produced locally. Our factory for agrochemicals is located in Ecuador, from which we export to Peru and Colombia. Agripac shifted from being an import company 47 years ago to an agro-industrial company with its own factories and distribution channels. Currently, we have stores in the jungle as far as Lago Agrio to support the local maize industry as well as in the highlands and the coast—all stocked via our own logistics operations. We have developed a domestic supply chain for farmers and shrimp growers. We are primarily focused on Ecuador, though we plan to export to neighboring countries to grow through organic expansion. Five years ago, we had total annual sales of USD200 million, which has grown to a projected figure of USD300 million for 2018.

How have you incorporated sustainability and social responsibility in your company's philosophy?

We take different actions in social responsibility. One of our programs is “La Escuelita," where we recruit recent graduates in agriculture for on-the-job training. We also provide free technical training to farmers to maximize their harvests. Currently, we are working on a project to develop online training programs for our farmers. Furthermore, we support local governments when they want to develop small farming projects in their regions. In terms of environmental sustainability, we have launched a product line of organic products for the banana sector. With AeroAgripac, we are perhaps the only certified company that offers aero fumigation with a certified organic plain for organic plantations. Five years ago, we launched a dedicated committee for CSR, which has evolved into a focus group for sustainability. In coordination with the Ministry of Agriculture, we participated in a program called “Plan Semilla," which supports small farmers to grow their maize, rice, and other crops, providing them with seeds, fertilizers, and training to improve their productivity. The local Association of Agriculture Supplies (APCSA) is now approaching the new minister to propose something similar, as collaboration between the public, private sectors, and academia is important for the development of our society. These programs should be transparent and provide real support to farmers.

How do you envision the agro- and aquaculture sector developing, and what does that mean for Agripac?

In the agriculture sector, products like maize, rice, palm, and cocoa will continue developing; one of our advantages is that we have the highest international quality standards for these traditional crops. Moreover, we should continue developing closer relations with international markets in order to know their needs and provide other agriculture products like exotic and tropical fruits. For example, the global market for chocolate is demanding higher percentages of cocoa so we should take that opportunity. The aquaculture sector is still growing although its demand slowed down slightly during 2017 after an aggressive growth for seven years. We are continuously innovating and creating solutions for this sector in order to take new opportunities to grow.