XAVIER LAZO

Ecuador 2020 | AGRICULTURE | INTERVIEW

By adopting new global trends in sustainability and good agricultural practices, Ecuador seeks to must reach the wider international market.

Xavier Lazo

How does the new Ecuador Premium and Sustainable strategy aim to position Ecuadorian products in the global markets?

Ecuador is an agricultural country with the weather and soil conditions necessary to produce a great variety of farming products, which have the potential to be acknowledged and stand out at an international level. The Ecuador Premium and Sustainable strategy has five pillars: tackling deforestation, tackling poverty, empowering women in rural areas, quality, and traceability. These five points will allow Ecuador's farm products to be better known in the world. The strategy also considers new global trends being adopted by consumers who are more responsible and committed to good agricultural practices. Thus, we must reach the international market with a strategy to meet the demands of all the different international consumers. We are doing this by participating in different events, such as the Fruit Logistica trade fair in Germany.

What measures are you taking to diversify Ecuador's export portfolio in an attempt to reach certain product niches of high-added value?

Consumers are moving to products that meet certain quality standards established by the good agricultural practices. These standards also take the environment and the farmer into consideration. Thus, as the regulator of the farming sector in this country, the ministry is working to develop traceability systems and promoting sustainable farming in every region. On the other hand, we have worked to improve productivity with quality and innovation through certain programs and projects in rural areas. In addition, we have worked to support the generational change so that younger populations in rural areas decide to take up farming. We want the youth to also help us to implement new technologies in the sector. A good example of a new technology being implemented is that of the Fito and Zoosanitary Regulation and Control Agency (Agrocalidad), which is monitoring fruit flies in farming areas. We have been able to include certain non-traditional farming products in the nation's strategy to further boost exports, which is an advantage for the agricultural sector and a source of good news for Ecuador. This includes pitahaya, blackberry, tree tomato, and other fruits that can provide an added value.

The Ecuadorian agricultural sector has a large number of small producers. What does their production represent for the country and how are you working to make them more efficient and competitive at an international level?

As of 3Q2019, Ecuador registered a total of 7.9 million people employed. Of those, 2.3 million work in agriculture, so the sector accounts for 28.6% of the country's workforce. The majority of the people who work in agriculture are small producers, in other words, they harvest fields under 5ha. These farmers mostly produce coffee, cacao, rice, and corn. In total, these crops cover 53% of Ecuador's total area. Thus, the ministry is working alongside producers to guarantee the quality of their products. Our technicians at a national level transfer the technical and technological knowledge to the farmers so that they can carry out their activities in a better way. Also, we constantly train them about the right processes after each harvest to increase the added value of the final products. This is part of our Premium and Sustainable strategy. On top this, we have a program to empower women in rural areas. We have been able to find, thanks to those associations, market niches that seek sustainably produced products. The state also wants to establish clear regulation to create a framework for each player participating in the different value chains in the different products that are developed in Ecuador. That's another goal we have established. As a result of such efforts, cacao will be a sustainable crop until 2030, thanks to a plan that we have developed to improve the competitiveness of the crop.