The agricultural sector is the potential in Santa Elena, especially in the area of the municipality of El Azúcar. Since entering this sector, at kilometer 94 of the Guayaquil-Salinas highway, almost the entire territory is full of haciendas in full production or land for expansion. There are highly technified plantations, with structures for sprinkler irrigation and machinery to prepare the land for plantings.
According to the Association of Agricultural Producers of Santa Elena (Asoprose), there are 20 large haciendas that cultivate grapes, avocado, corn, cocoa, organic bananas, coconut palm and banana, among the main ones. The products of greater production in the whole province are corn and avocado.
The Kong farm is one of the largest producers of corn with 240 ha, it also produces 10 of coconut palm and has a project for avocado. Douglas Leon, manager, says that the level of technical skills is so high that in 200 ha they work with 5 to 6 people. In total, there are 17 products planted on 5 670 hectares. But the 20 haciendas have 12 514 hectares in total, that is, more than 50% is still undeveloped. 39% of the provincial workforce is in the agricultural haciendas. The largest agricultural companies in Santa Elena belong to this sector.
Agrícola Pura Vida is the second with the largest amount of assets in the province, with USD 14.9 million, according to the ranking of the Superintendence of Companies of 2017. Pura Vida owns 600 hectares, according to Asoprose, and produces 105 hectares of table grapes of Red Globe variety (pink with seed) and ARRA15 (green without seed). It also has 100 ha of Hass avocado.
Last year, it did not record profits because of 80% production losses due to floods. But this year it has recovered and has 500 workers. This is indicated by Carlos Rueda, owner of Pura Vida. At the beginning of August the “parrones” of the hacienda were fully loaded with pink grapes for the beginning of the harvest. In these days there are still dozens of people picking up the product in the vineyards that extend into the hacienda.
The production is from 200,000 to 250,000 boxes of grapes per year. Rueda calculates that in 2018 it could export 30% of the harvest. He currently sells to Colombia, but there are expectations to open markets in England, Italy and the US. In 2009, Pura Vida was a pioneer in the production of grapes in the peninsula. Then two other haciendas were installed.
It is estimated that the investment of the three is USD 20 million. But the concern is the commercialization in the local market, due to the lack of opening of supermarket chains. On August 2, during a visit to the area of the then Minister of Agriculture, Rubén Flores, and the association raised the issue.
Jaime León, president of Asoprose, reiterated that the concern of producers is marketing in the country. He noted that the issues that affect them are the import and smuggling of products across borders. Rueda asked the government to support the large chains to open and visit the plantations.
The top 20 companies in Santa Elena had profits of USD 9.9 million in 2017. Of these, 12 are dedicated to the extraction, reproduction and rearing of shrimp larvae to supply the country. In Ecuador there are 300 laboratories and 180 are installed in the peninsula, says Álex El Ghoul, director of the Chamber of Aquaculture of Santa Elena. The first laboratories in the country were built in 1983 in the peninsula.
At the end of the 90s there were 25 laboratories in production and at the end of 2000, there were 200. Today the growth goes hand in hand with the ‘boom’ of the industry. In 2017, shrimp was consolidated as the main non-oil export product, with USD 3 038 million.
On a national scale, 6 billion postlarvae are produced per month, of which 4 billion come from the peninsula. That equates to monthly sales of USD 10 million, according to El Ghoul. He is also manager of Aquatropical, one of 15 comprehensive laboratories, with a maturation room with 10,000 players. Mar Bravo is one of the areas where most laboratories are installed. Others are La Diablica, Punta Carnero, San Pablo, Ayangue and San José. It is estimated that these companies employ 4,000 families. (I)