Bananas production holds an important role in the Ecuadorian exportations. Indeed, this product is widely sold around the world especially thanks to its recognized nutritive features. In 2011, Ecuador was the 5th world’s producer with 8 million tons produced all along the year. The same year, exportations arose more than 4 million tons a year. That’s also important keeping in mind that banana is ranked among the staple food Top 10 which feeds the world.
The Ecuadorian production started by the 1910’s, even if the industry boom hadn’t been reached before 1948. By the middle of the 1950’s, Ecuador was at the top of the world’s largest producers ranking. In 1954, 5 main companies were settled in the country. Their gathered exportations represented 80% of the Ecuadorian banana exports. Ten years later, we counted more than 3,000 banana farms spread over the country with an average of 158 acres each. Unfortunately, later in the same decade, the Panama disease caused huge losses in banana crops inducing a country’s economy suffering. Then in the 1960’s, an agrarian reform changed the land holdings fragmentation causing lots of company’s closures, loss of advantages for large land holders and establishment of small non-union plantations under local producers. While these events were happening, the Cavendish banana was introduced in Ecuador. In the 1970´s, 99% of the Ecuadorian production was from the Oro, Guayas and Los Rios provinces, located in the Coastal region. In 2012, 22 % of banana and plantain exportations went to Russia, followed by 18% to USA, 10% to Italy, 8% to Germany, 6% to Belgium, 5% respectively to Chile and Turkey, 3% respectively to Netherlands and Ukraine, 2% to Serbia. Nowadays, 214 000 hectares are dedicated to bananas production.
Bananas are rich in A, B, C and E vitamins but also in elements such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron… They are highly nutritive, perfect for children and elderly people.
In Ecuador, more than 300 varieties are found. However, even if they all are results of hybrid combinations (Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana species), a distinction is made between “Plantains” (Musa paradisiacal) and “Dessert Bananas” (Musa sapientum). Plantain is the only specie which always needs to be cooked whereas the others, the “Dessert Bananas”, can be eaten raw. As a “Dessert Banana” we can mention the Cavendish Banana. Plantain also differs from the others by its starch amount which is higher and its sugar amount which is lower.
Unripe plantains have a hard pulp and stiff peel. Therefore, plantains which have reached a ripe stage are easily peeled and have a softer pulp because of starch converted to sugar. They also have a potato flavor. They can be boiled, baked or even grilled at any stage of ripeness.
This variety is originally from Vietnam and China. It is a subgroup of the Musa acuminata cultivar. It was named in honor of William Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire, who acquired it and from whose greenhouse the cultivars were first developed for worldwide exportations. Between 1998 and 2000, it represented 47% of the global production. It is usually eaten raw. It is harvested green and turns later to a yellow stain until a black one. When it is overripe, its flesh becomes mushy.
In Ecuador, “chiffles” are really popular. Unripe fruits are peeled, sliced and deeply fried in hot oil. They look like potato chips.
“Patacones” are also found in the Ecuadorian traditional food. They are twice-fried plantain patties. We often eat them as a side, as well as rice or salad.
Of course, bananas are also eaten unaltered, as a normal fruit.
Banana Ambassador Campaign:
When communication and advertising budgets are limited, an alternative has to be found to promote tourism over the country. Ecuador understood it well and developed an innovative idea. This one consists on putting a QR code on each Ecuadorian banana exported. By using their Smartphone, people all around the world could scan it and be redirected to the Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism website. There, they will be able to watch a country’s promotional video. This smart campaign will be useful to make people know better about Ecuador and make them want to visit it.
Even if we know the importance of this fruit, environmental issues are reported. Plastic bags used to tie fruits while they are growing are suspected of having toxic effects, and aerial spraying insecticides of threatening human and animal lives.