Before the coronavirus (covid-19) health emergency began worldwide, the ton of cocoa for export was quoted at $ 2,940. Now with measures to mitigate the infection, the price of the Ecuadorian product reaches $ 2,230. In other words, the crisis caused a loss of $ 700 for each ton of cocoa.
The damage, according to Francisco Miranda, president of the National Association of Cocoa Exporters (Anecacao), is directly for the farmers who lose $ 40 for every quintal when marketing the fruit.
“Let us remember that cocoa is the export crop with the largest number of farmers in all of Ecuador, even above flowers and bananas. We have more than 240,000 families who depend on the cocoa chain and for whom this decrease in price has them in collapse, “warned Miranda.
In addition, the demand for the product fell, explains Julio Zambrano, general manager of Cofina SA (National Fine Chocolates). ” Buyers abroad have asked us not to ship yet ,” he said.
At the local level, there was also a reduction in customers due to transport restrictions in the provinces and curfew schedules in the country.
However, this is not the only difficulty that must be overcome in the sector. Also added is the absence of staff who, due to their health care, must miss their work, explains Zambrano. “ We have had to rotate or modify shifts so as not to stop 100%. Although we are operating at about 55% of our capacity, “he added.
As another point against they cite ignorance of local authorities or lack of coordination between the Central Government and the Autonomous Decentralized Governments (GAD).
Miranda denounced that in recent weeks, many GAD closed the collection centers that are commonly used by cocoa intermediaries, “ who are the ones who interact with farmers . This cuts off the flow of the product to the city and in turn stops the flow of money back to the countryside, ”he said.
This lack of coordination also caused exporters to notify the arrest of their workers for complying with the transport of cocoa, in addition to farmers arrested for selling the product, closing businesses and fines. For cocoa farmers, it is essential that the State take care of the production chain that enters its high phase in April.
If not for the crisis, the sector could continue its growth. Between 2018 and 2019, cocoa exports increased by $ 86.4 million, from $ 594.4 million in the 2018 sale to $ 680.8 million in 2019. The profit corresponds to the growth of 33,338 tons (see infographic) .
Despite the difficulties, the sector continues with the commercialization and export work. “Although transnational or international companies have closed their operations, Ecuadorian exporting companies are operating at 100% of capacity, ” added Miranda.
Although Ecuador and almost all countries worldwide are facing the crisis, Juan Pablo Zúñiga, general manager of Exportadora e Importadora A y J SA, adds that the ideal is for the emergency to take as little time as possible so that cocoa is not damaged. “If the cocoa receives the due process of fermentation and drying, it can remain two or three months as long as it has the correct storage, ” he indicated.
Against this background, international firms are preventing payments from being made with the same dynamism as before the crisis.
For this reason, the union requested that the State promote the requirement for the financial sector to grant terms to the credit responsibilities of cocoa farmers so that they can continue operating and marketing.
Instead, they asked the public bank to inject resources that will be used for the commercial area of the product. “We need economic resources to reach farmers. And so too, that the product reaches us, “said Miranda.
On the other hand, in the competition that corresponds to the Executive, they affirmed that the will to delay the payment of income tax and the support to continue exports, will allow the sector to maintain dynamism and, with this, it can give way to money transfers entering the country for both farmers and workers. (I)
Industries apply sanitary standards to export
The Ministry of Production, Foreign Trade, Investments and Fisheries reported that Ecuador continues to export, despite the health emergency. For this, it complies with biosecurity and safety standards that the international market demands. For example, disinfection arches and antiseptic products are applied in the cleaning and purification of containers that enter the country, as well as those that go abroad. The production and export chains comply with biosecurity measures both for workers and for production itself: for example, the industries of fish products, shrimp, bananas, canned fruits and vegetables have not stopped during these days.
Regulatory agencies are doing controls and delivering phytosanitary export certifications . (I)