For decades, Quinindé has been known to be the heart of the oil palm, but in recent years its heartbeat no longer sounds the same. Today, it is fortunate to be the main scenario where the rot of the heart takes root, the fearsome disease that is affecting 152,000 of the 257,000 hectares planted nationwide and which puts employment in this sector at high risk and with it the almost 300 million dollars that are generated by export.
The sector has decided to turn on the alert. It is 59% of the crop that, they say, in a year to a year and a half will disappear. So bluntly noticed by Wilfrido Acosta, president of the National Association of Cultivators of Palma Aceitera del Ecuador (Ancupa).
The same price crisis that in recent years has prevented farmers from fertilizing and eradicating health problems in their crops, is what today makes it impossible to replace the affected crops and re-cultivate. “For the price that is being paid for the fruit, they realize that it is not a profitable activity. And they are simply letting the crops die, there is also no substitute, “he says.
For four years, farmers receive between 105 and 107 dollars per ton of this fruit that generates the coveted oil used by the food and cosmetics industry. However, Acosta says that is not enough to cover production costs, which are between 125 and 135 dollars. A disparity that today keeps many palm producers in crisis.
It is the story of Darwin Rivas, a Quinindé farmer who can do nothing to reactivate a 60-hectare farm that he stopped producing six months ago. He laments because it was this same activity that inherited a debt of $ 45,000 that he still has to pay to the banks, but also because of the impotence he feels when he cannot help the people who are still asking for work. “Every day I employed 15 people who were in charge of cutting, crowning, fertilizing. They were people who were enrolled and insured, with the benefits of law, but doing that now is more than impossible.”
Rivas inhabits the 5 August site, one of the areas with the highest incidence of heart rot, that fungus that attempts to leave Quinindé and adjacent areas without work (La Concordia, La Unión and part of Santo Domingo), which Together they represent the largest production block in the country, with 124,000 hectares. According to Ancupa, in this sector you can get to lose 50,000 places between a year and a year and a half, the time it would take to die these plants that, mostly, shine with their yellow branches and fallen leaves.
Daniel Celi, purchasing manager of the extractors of La Fabril, one of the largest companies that demand this type of oil, attests to this crisis. Tell how 4 years ago in Quinindé, they came to collect up to 6,000 tons of fruit. Today they barely make 400. That, he explains, forced them to close one extractor and semi-paralyzed another. That closure meant that 40 people were left without work.
The immediate solution to preserve the more than 120,000 jobs that are generated in this sector is to start replacing crops. However, Acosta clarifies that this is not possible if the farmer does not have the help of the State. EXPRESO tried to have a reaction from the Minister of Agriculture, Xavier Laso, but it was not successful.
However, Acosta says that the sector has already sent him a list of requests. The most important, he says, is to set a road plan that allows them to be sustainable. But for this, he adds, first a policy should be generated that allows producers to access better lines of credit and to eliminate the difficulty of importing seeds that are already proving to be more resistant to the disease.
The Government has offered lines of credit with rates ranging from 11 to 15% and with terms of up to 15 years. However, the offer does not convince. Darwin Rivas estimates that with a rate of up to 5% he could be encouraged to replace his dead planting. In the folder has the plan to re-plant 5,000 plants of the Amazon variety, which five months ago managed to import from Costa Rica, and thereby counteract the high rate of unemployment that afflicts your area.
It would stop exporting
In 2017, Ecuador produced 516,000 tons of oil, of which 330,000 were destined for export. In Ancupa say that it is difficult to estimate what will be the decrease of local supply that will be this year and how this will affect the export in the coming months.
However, it is calculated that if this scenario is maintained, between 2020 and 2021 the country will cease to be an exporter and with it will stop generating more than $ 255 million. What is produced will be destined for local consumption. Something sad, they say.
The world demand, which grows up to 9% each year, would not be taken advantage of.
To know what it is used for: the oil is used to make margarine, confectionery, cookies, cleaning products, cosmetics, candles.
According to Ancupa, 54,000 hectares of palm have been lost in recent decades because of this disease. Producers Nearly 580 producers stopped being palm producers, according to the agricultural censuses of 2005 and 2017. (I)