DAMIÁN BAEZA GARCÍA

Ecuador 2020 | AGRICULTURE | INTERVIEW

In line with greener trends and more niche requests in the packaging sector, Procarsa has been evolving its operations accordingly.

Damián Baeza García
BIOGRAPHY

Damián Baeza García has a degree in industrial psychology and a master's degree in production management and industrial process improvement from the University of Barcelona. He began his professional career in operations of the paper industry in Spain and has consulted in the financial, commercial, mass product, construction, retail, and industry sectors. Since 2009, he has been working in companies related to paper and cardboard in Ecuador. He works for Surpapel Group, where he holds the positions of organizational development manager, supply chain manager, and general manager of Surpapelcorp. Baeza has more than 20 years of experience in the paper and cardboard sector.

How has the company been gaining prominence as a cardboard provider for Ecuador's banana strategic exporters?

The company was founded in 1965 and was originally linked, and still is, to the banana industry. Around the 1960s, the production of cardboard boxes began in Ecuador, closely related to the banana industry. For many years, this company was part of Dole, one of the largest producers and distributors of fruit in the world. In 2009, Dole decided to stop the production of boxes and focus on fruits, and in that year Grupo Surpapel acquired 100% of Procarsa. Grupo Surpapel started operations in the country between 2000 and 2002, distributing packaging materials. The group incorporated a recycled paper mill in 2011 that provides 70% of the paper Procarsa uses. The group also has a company called Repapers in charge of recycling. Today, Procarsa's operations are still focused on the banana industry, bringing new solutions and adapting to international trends for packaging. The cardboard industry in Ecuador depends on the banana industry, which uses 800,000 tons of cardboard per year. The average consumption per capita of paper in Ecuador is 47kg of paper per year, higher than the average in Latin America, at 43kg a year but much lower than the 250kg per year consumed in the US or Europe. The high local use of paper per capita is due to the export industry, which uses around 60% of the total. The Ecuadorian banana represents 33% of all banana consumption in the world. It mainly goes to Russia, the Middle East, Europe, the US, and South America.

How are you working to increase the use of recycled material, and how is paper collection being encouraged?

Procarsa processes over 160,000 tons of cardboard per year, and 70% of the paper it uses is recycled. The other 30% is imported paper from the US, which is virgin fiber. Virgin fiber currently has a large percentage of recycled paper in its formula. Our objective is to integrate even more recycled paper in our supply chain, so that 100% of our products are environmentally friendly. There are over 2,000 families in Ecuador involved directly or indirectly with paper recycling. Repapers helped to organize an informal sector and trained a segment that moves over 7,000 tons of recycled paper in the country with over 5,000 people involved. This was possible due to the creation of over 600 green points of recollection, where the gatherers can bring the product. Afterward, it is classified, organized, and transported to the paper mill. It is an important social endeavor, because in Ecuador only around 35-40% of recycled paper and cardboard is used. It is a process to reach higher percentages, because there should be more social awareness amongst consumers to separate waste in their own homes.

What technologies are trending in the cardboard industry?

Ecuador has changed significantly in the last few years, mainly positively, which has made the industry more competitive. There were investments to substitute the imports of some resources used in the country, including paper. Paper manufacturers like us exist because that policy changed. In 2010, we were pioneers in investing in a paper mill that substituted imports amounting 120,000 tons of papers; however, the country keeps using more paper. Additionally, the paper industry has been forced to innovate because the market is dynamic and has been changing; for example, transport lots are smaller. It used to be a whole ship but now is just a container. Before, one had to produce the same box for two days, and now there are orders for just 500 boxes, and we can have over 200 orders per day. We have had to change the technology in order to have machines that can be quickly adjusted and can produce high-quality graphics so that the box can be placed in shelves for the final consumer following the import country regulations.