Livestock in Ecuador is an activity that, despite occupying 68% of agricultural land, does not contribute significantly to the country’s economy (it only represents 11% of agricultural GDP), which partly reflects low efficiency and competitiveness indexes productive However, the Ecuadorian Government has expressed expectations of meat exports, based on the declaration of the International Organization for Animal Health (OIE) in 2015, of Ecuador as a country free of foot-and-mouth disease with vaccination. The Government has implemented programs of genetic improvement, improvement of pastures and slaughter processes in municipal slaughterhouses; However, there is still a long way to go before the production of Ecuadorian beef is of exportable quality.
This is what is noticed in a study by the professor of Espae-Espol of María José Castillo and the professor of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, of Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX, Carlos Enrique Carpio.
The experts analyzed the beef market and produced a report published by Espae-Espol, entitled Demand for Beef in Ecuador: Could consumers stimulate improvements in the quality of meat?
The document points out that at the domestic level, the consumption of beef in Ecuador is low (10 kg / person / year) compared to other countries that produce beef on the continent. For example, consumption in Brazil, Argentina and the United States is 36, 63 and 26 kg / person / year, respectively.
In addition, there is a relatively low demand for high quality beef, presumably due to the lack of information and knowledge of consumers about the quality of the meat, indicates the analysis of Castillo and Carpio.
Experts explain that the low demand for quality is also due to the low levels of imports of beef, as a result of border protection policies, which makes it difficult for consumers to have a reference of high quality meat.
But how could a change in the quality of national beef occur? The study investigated the role that consumers could play in improving the quality of beef.
From a broader perspective, a substantial improvement in the quality of Ecuadorian beef could result in an expansion of the domestic market and facilitate participation in the export market.
The study also evaluated the perceptions, knowledge and experiences of consumers about the quality of beef in Ecuador. In addition, consumer preferences for various intrinsic and credibility (extrinsic) attributes of meat were studied, and the effect of educational information on their preferences for attributes was evaluated. The results suggest that consumers would be willing to pay more for beef that meets quality characteristics.
It was also found that willingness to pay would increase if the consumer receives additional educational information about the quality characteristics.
Also, quality certification programs would have good acceptance among consumers.
However, a large segment of consumers perceive beef as an unhealthy product, which restricts their consumption and tends to reduce the willingness to pay for meat of better quality.
From the study of the Espae-Espol the following recommendations of public policy come off:
- Carry out or strengthen regulatory actions that contribute to improving animal welfare and sanitary control.
- Implement policies that favor the traceability of meat and shorten the value chain.
- Grant or encourage the obtaining of quality certifications, both to producers and to distributors of beef.
- Conduct or contribute to educational campaigns regarding cuts of meat and what is good quality meat.
- Promote research on the effect that the different production and management variables throughout the chain have on the health of consumers.
The private sector is working hard to improve the quality of meat. EXPRESO weeks ago published a report about the buffalo brought to the country and the products that are already sold. (I)