Corn harvest continues amid pandemic
In the Las Anonas de Pedro Carbo sector, in Guayas, Nelly Morán supervises the shelling of the first ears. She wears long-sleeved clothes and wears a mask and cap .
In this year, the producer dedicated almost four hectares (ha) to the production of the grain.
The gang of eight workers that he hired for this harvest season , which started two weeks ago, arrives to work with masks or with a T-shirt tied around his neck to cover his face.
In cultivation , the day laborers take care to keep the two meters of social distance .
Morán hopes to collect all the corn these days to sell it in the cantonal capital. The woman hopes to harvest 150 quintals per ha.
Other Isidro Ayora farmers also carry out these activities . In these areas of the Guayas province, 15% of the grain has been collected. In the whole province the harvest advanced by 50%.
Producers , workers , transporters , marketers and administrators of fairs are obliged to comply with provisions to avoid the spread of covid-19 .
The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) issued in April the Protocol of recommendations for the agricultural sector, which recommends frequent hand washing, covering the mouth when coughing, respecting distance and using protection supplies.
The MAG projects that the productivity of the corn sector will improve this year.
The entity calculates that it will be 6.04 tons (t) per ha, when in the same period last year it was 5.97 t / ha.
The Portfolio explained that the climate helped to achieve adequate humidity in the 281,000 ha planted throughout the country.
This made it possible to compensate for the droughts registered in various areas of Manabí last January and the logistics problems that occurred between March and April due to the pandemic .
In those months, mobility restrictions did not allow intermediaries to reach the field on time.
In addition, this situation complicated the purchase of fertilizers and other inputs, which caused slight delays, said César Vizcarra , spokesman for the Fertile Earth Federation, which groups 160 farmers from Ventanas and Mocache, in Los Ríos.
In that province the cereal harvest is 85%.
Alfredo Orlando, head of the Indagro company, which is leading an agricultural development project in Guayas and Manabí , said that, in addition to the delays, there were high levels of absenteeism for fear of the spread of the covid-19 virus.
“Now some producers are planning to fully mechanize the crop given the drawbacks of the months of March and April,” he said.
The Indagro program offers agricultural credit, supplies, technical advice and the total purchase of the crop to the corn farmers. Under this project, 280,000 quintals of hard yellow corn will be purchased from 1,500 producers.
Despite the good performance, producers warn that they will not get the expected income. The investment per hectare of corn is USD 1,700 to achieve 150 quintals. The amount includes rent of land, seeds, fertilizers, fungicides, labor and rental of machines for sowing, harvesting, threshing and drying.
Henry Peña , president of the Corporación Nacional de Maiceros , considered that the profitability for the producer remains low because the industries or the collection centers do not pay the minimum official support price.
For this year, a price of USD 14.60 was set for the quintal of corn of 45.36 kilos, with 13% humidity and 1% impurities . But, according to Peña, only the farmer is paid up to USD 13.
Jorge Josse , director of the Association of Balanced Food Producers (Aprobal), said that the industry is complying with the absorption of 20% of corn from legally constituted associations in the country.
However, it ensures that there is a lack of liquidity in the sector as a result of the 40% reduction in demand for chicken and pork meat in the country. “There are poultry and pig producers who are behind on their payments and that affects the liquidity of the balancing factories.”
Josse acknowledged, however, that it is buying slower. This will go up as demand improves.