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Ecuador's heart of palm industry beats more strongly


Ecuador’s heart of palm industry is soaring, thanks to the efforts of Red Productiva — a USAID project managed by CARANA — to improve quality and production among micro, small and medium-sized producers.

Eight additional medium-sized farmers are now working with an anchor firm, and have planted 160 hectares of palm trees, harvesting the core or “heart” as a vegetable used in salads and other dishes. After negotiating with the anchor firm, input providers agreed to reduce costs for suppliers on seedlings to $0.13 — 35% less than retail price — as well as agrochemicals. The anchor firm also established a quality control system across its supply chain and is working toward ISO 22000 certification. Meanwhile, it has received FDA and Passover certification, which allows it to enter the niche Passover market in the US.

The effort is paying off: Exports skyrocketed this year to 47 containers – up from nine in 2007 – headed for new markets in the US and Mexico. Labor conditions have also improved, following a study of workforce needs and the development of a plan to include training, basic health services, scholarships for the children of employees, and some financial services. In November, workers received training on hygiene, and the anchor firm established agreements with local clinics to ensure access for their employees.

Heart of palm is one of 10 Global Development Alliances formed by Red Productiva to improve the competitiveness of select industries in Ecuador, including footwear, leather and hot peppers. Read more about Red Productiva’s activities.

Published December 2008