Ecuador's Mission to Save the Banana, Fight Food Contamination, and Drive Safe Food Production

Organized by the Agencia de Regulación y Control Fito y Zoosanitario - AGROCALIDAD and in Collaboration with GLOBALG.A.P. and the Instituto Interamericano de Cooperación para la Agricultura (the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture) - IICA

"Ecuador is a benchmark for quality in the region. This GLOBALG.A.P. TOUR event demonstrates our commitment to spreading Good Agricultural Practices and ensuring that safe, nutritious, and healthy food reaches the tables of all consumers, both nationally and internationally.
Xavier Lazo Guerrero, Ecuadorian Minister of Agriculture and Livestock

Agriculture is a fundamental sector of Ecuador's economy. The country is a large producer of fresh fruits and vegetables, supplying a major part of the world's demand for bananas, wheat, rice, maize, and other various crops.

The agenda of the 2-day TOUR event, held on 15-16 August in Guayaquil, focused on GLOBALG.A.P. solutions for food safety, traceability, localg.a.p., and social responsibility, and covered specific topics such as Fusarium TR4, and the implications of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

More than 160 delegates consisting of important stakeholders within the primary sector expressed their readiness to work together to face the contemporary challenges of the Ecuadorian primary sector.

Saving the Banana with the GLOBALG.A.P. TR4 Biosecurity Add-On
Ecuador is the largest banana exporter in the world with more than 16,000 producers of bananas, plantains, and other bananalike crops. Consisting largely of small-scale producers, the overall industry employs more than 2.5 million people, accounts for 17% of the population's employment, and is worth more than $3 billion. Fighting Fusarium wilt tropical race 4 (TR4) is a top priority for Ecuador and national efforts are underway to prevent this devastating fungus from destroying the nation's banana plantations. And since the pathogen has been confirmed in Colombia, the threat has become more latent not only in Ecuador but the entire Latin American region. 1

At a special session on TR4, Monica Gallo of AGROCALIDAD highlighted the actions the Ecuadorian government has carried out so far to prevent the entry of TR4 into the country. Raul Villacrés, Director of the Association of Exporters Banana of Ecuador (AEBE), showed the devastating impact this disease could have on the local banana sector, as well as highlighted how imperative producer responsibility and cooperation is to ensure the disease is properly contained. And Juan Aycart from DOLE/LOGBAN shared his experience in establishing biosafety standards according to the farm's level of risk exposure and vulnerability.

Hugo Hays, GLOBALG.A.P. Board Member and Global Director of Food Safety and Compliance at Fyffes, stressed the importance of the communication and coordination between traders and suppliers about taking biosecurity actions on the farms and sharing these with their clients. He also added that Fyffes now demands that their suppliers include the GLOBALG.A.P. TR4 Biosecurity Add-on in their next GLOBALG.A.P. Integrated Farm Assurance audit. This add-on is a tool that provides farmers with a risk mitigation plan to prevent the introduction and/or further spreading of the TR4 pathogen to, within, and from their GLOBALG.A.P. certified farms. The add-on helps raise awareness about the seriousness of the disease on a global scale by providing added guidelines and information, as well as verifying the biosecurity measures implemented on farm.

Fighting Food Contamination to Protect Public Health
A key issue on Ecuador's G.A.P. agenda is spreading awareness of how poor agricultural practices lead to food contamination and food-borne diseases and thus to a serious public health issue. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 2, an estimated 600 million people worldwide – almost 1 in 10 – fall ill after eating contaminated food, and 420,000 die every year. Food safety, nutrition and food security are inextricably linked, and foodborne diseases impede socioeconomic development by straining health care systems, and harming national economies, tourism, and trade. As food supply chains now cross multiple national borders, the key is good collaboration between governments, producers, and consumers.

And in a report issued earlier this year, the World Bank estimates that unsafe food costs lower and middle-income countries over 100 billion USD annually mainly due to lost productivity. Inadequate investment in food safety is not just a problem for public health, it's a major economic issue as well. 2

Ecuador's Year of Good Agricultural Practices
In addition to declaring 2019 as the year of Good Agricultural Practices, the Ecuadorian government has issued Resolution No. 0038 of BPA (Buenas Prácticas Agropecuarias) on June 7 as part of the World Food Safety Day 3, which recognizes food safety as a fundamental role for public health.

This resolution has led to policies and activities that affect the entire food chain to ensure clean and reliable food from the field to the table. Initiatives include a collaboration between AGROCALIDAD, IICA - the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, and GLOBALG.A.P. to develop approaches for expanding capacity building and G.A.P. training in the country as well as promoting Good Agricultural Practices.

AGROCALIDAD is a government agency that is part of the Ecuadorian Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. It is responsible for the control and regulation, and thus protection and improvement, of animal health, plant health and food safety, for the benefit of agricultural sector.

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