Due to its digestive properties, the Ecuadorian pitahaya is highly valued in countries of Asia and the United States , nations that maintain very varied and seasoned diets.
In 2019, the sector exported around $ 44 million FOB and 7 thousand tons. 90% of production is concentrated in Palora, a canton in the province of Morona Santiago . This exotic fruit began to be in demand and producers increased their production; They harvest around 1,800 hectares.
Currently there is an overproduction that, according to growers, is causing losses because the price is below production costs.
“There was a false expectation that the markets would continue to demand the product, but we have restrictions,” said Sebastián Bustamante, spokesman for the Association of Fresh Fruits of Ecuador (AFFEC).
The producer and exporter of the fruit explained that for more than three years they have been working on opening the Chinese market, but there are still no favorable results; The private company makes efforts to bring buyers and participate in fairs and business conferences, but the opening with the Asian giant has not yet been achieved.
Much time has been wasted socializing the fruit and exchanging information, so much so that China is already producing it; There are around 100 hectares planted in that country.
They are buying time so that when they have production they lose interest in our fruit.
“If the Chinese market does not open this year, I think many companies and producers could go bankrupt,” Bustamante said.
For his part, Santiago Báez, general manager of Pukuna, considers it important to enter China.
Currently, the pitahaya goes to small markets such as Hong Kong, Singapore and other small Asian countries. He believes that Ecuador should bet on the pitahaya.
“It is extremely superior to that produced in Colombia, Peru and other countries. In China it would be highly valued. ”
He agrees with Bustamante regarding the oversupply problem that makes prices not yet profitable, but could improve if the Asian market opens, which would give more opportunities to small and large producers.
“With the opening of the Chinese market we expect an average price throughout the year of $ 2.50 to $ 3,” said Báez.
The pitahaya not only requires negotiating with China or Japan ; in Latin America there is demand in countries like Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Colombia.
A lot of illegal fruit goes to the last two nations because there is no phytosanitary access, Bustamante explained.
AFFEC calls for markets to be opened in countries where there is demand. “We don’t want openness in nations where the fruit is unlikely to be sold.” It travels by plane and freight costs are very expensive.
Another request from AFFEC is that the lines of credit for new crops of yellow pitahaya be discontinued because it is unsustainable in the short and medium term.
The producer assures that it is not that they do not want more people to go into the production of pitahaya, but there is no place to place the fruit, the price is low and they will not be able to pay the credits.
“Financing should be channeled for improvement, technification or certifications and not in new crops until new markets are opened.”
The Deputy Minister of Export and Investment Promotion, Verónica Chávez, explained that the opening of a new market takes several years of negotiation. And with China there are some technical tables that are being negotiated. Due to the health emergency due to the covid-19, the process is slower because they are more rigorous in the production processes and in handling biosecurity issues, but the talks are ongoing.
This exotic fruit has international acceptance and demand, especially in Europe and the US. Ecuadorian producers have participated in international fairs such as Fruit Logistics, which was the last face-to-face where ProEcuador participated with the Ecuador Premium & Sustainable initiative .
The fruit already has its Pitahaya de Palora designation of origin, and together with Agrocalidad, work is underway to improve the competitiveness of the fruit in order to reach other international markets.
But above all, work on the accesses that they require so that they can enter markets such as China or Peru, where they could be widely accepted.
ProEcuador promotes the exportable offer to have opportunities and to close business.
While the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock works in the production, competitiveness and improvement of the processes to promote the improvement of the quality and production of agricultural products.
Currently it works in an articulated way. The pitahaya sector has a working table where all the related actors are: MAG, Agrocalidad, Undersecretary of Industries and ProEcuador, for the insertion of international markets.
ProEcuador also supports with commercial offices to see the opportunities in the countries.
“China culturally uses a lot of exotic fruit, but until the phytosanitary problem is solved, the pitahaya cannot enter the Asian country yet,” said Chávez.
Big data in exports
The Pukuna company produces since 2018 and exports this fruit. It currently implements a commercial technology platform that allows it to label individual pitahaya products and cartons that leave Ecuador
Each one is assigned a QR code that works as a digital identity, which allows the consumer to monitor in real time the entire process from the time it is packed until it reaches its final destination.
This is an alliance with your strategic partner DiMuto.
Consumers want to receive information anywhere, anytime; also authenticity and trust, through the transparency of quality information and, finally, natural products with proof of origin.
The processing and packaging center has technological inputs that guarantee the safety of the fruit and allows them to monitor in real time from when the fruit is in the plant. (I)