VICENTE WONG

Ecuador 2020 | AGRICULTURE | INTERVIEW

Reybanpac is looking into integrating technologies and additional sustainable practices to uplift Ecuador's agricultural exports and enter new markets.

Vicente Wong
BIOGRAPHY

Vicente Wong Naranjo is an economist and second-generation executive of Favorita Fruit Company, which owns Reybanpac, a leading banana producer and exporter in Ecuador. In 2018, he was named along with his brother, Rafael Wong, best industrialist of the year by the Chamber of Industries of Guayaquil.

Ecuador has managed to survive the Fusarium crisis that affected regional players. How has Reybanpac dealt with it?

We quickly responded to the alarms raised in Colombia and adapted our production process through exclusion and fungi control, adjusting them to the Australian standards. We have been researching about varieties that are either tolerant or resistant to this strain of Fusarium for some time now and will be able to acclimatize it to Ecuadorian soil in two to three years. We have faced these challenges in the past with different levels of success, and we are working on improving our record and helping the industry. The government has played its part and issued a series of decrees and regulations to raise awareness on the threat and enable knowledge transfer of best practices. Now it is up to us as producers to decide which standard of quality or biosecurity to adopt.

In the context of the recent trade agreements signed by Ecuador, which markets present the best potential for the banana industry?

Europe represents the highest potential for us. This became evident when our exports grew by 20% after signing the multi-party trade agreement. Still, we do not want to depend on any single market. At present, Russia represents our second-most important market. Asia is also part of our long-term plans. Ecuador needs to sign FTAs with countries such as China and South Korea. Costa Rica already has FTAs with a number of markets in Asia, so it will take a national effort to enter these markets. With regard to the US, we have actually reduced our exports there to 10% of our total exports. Around 27% of our exports go to the EU and 25% to Russia.

What are the company's CSR and sustainability activities?

Latin American producers are generally responsible and concerned with the livelihood of the people involved in the industry and the inclusion of environmentally friendly practices, and Ecuador is way ahead of the rest of the market. We have strict labor and environmental regulations in Ecuador. Reybanpac was recently awarded the Good Business Practices 2019 recognition due to its care and responsibility toward its collaborators. Some modern markets are increasingly demanding better social and cultural labor practices for producers and higher quality products. Customers want to be aware of the quality of life of everyone involved in the process.

What are some of the ways in which Reybanpac is working to add value to its exports?

There are some high value markets that are willing to pay for quality. A case in point is Japan, which demands specific sizes, color, packaging, labeling, and flavor. Overall, all markets demand better quality and products according to their consumers' preferences. There are many technologies projected to be integrated into our business, such as blockchain, drones, and robotic process automation, among others. Technologies will make our processes more efficient and increase our productivity. This will enable Ecuador to enter new markets.

What are your main projects and plans in the short and medium term?

We are working on creating value for our customers with the implementation of technological advancements that improve quality, security, and traceability of the product. The public and private sectors need to join forces and work toward the creation or enhancement of trade channels and opportunities. As a national industry, all stakeholders must improve Ecuador's brand and open or deepen the relationship with international markets whilst refining the trade conditions to expand commercial activities. Finally, we need to raise awareness about the economic significance of the agriculture industry. From the perspective of tax collection and generation of foreign currency, the success of the agroindustrial sector represents the wellbeing and livelihood of an important portion of the national population. At Reybanpac, we are happy to supply close to 10% of Ecuador's banana exports and grow with the market.