A banana’s journey across the Pacific

Chinese consumption is on the rise and the repercussions are felt around the world. With increasing demand for quality fruit, banana growers from Ecuador have found a new and booming market.

Tuchok Banana 2

Banana export from Ecuador to China
2012: 1,890
2013: 1,612
2014: 12,566
2015: 15,000 (estimated)

(Number of containers – forty-foot equivalent)

SOURCE: BANANA EXPORTERS ASSOCIATION OF ECUADOR (AEBE)

It is another scolding hot day at the Tuchok banana plantation outside the city of Guayaquil in Ecuador. The humidity from the morning’s rainfall fills the air under the banana trees that in return give shade to the busy workers. The bananas are in demand on the other side of the planet.

“The Chinese living standard is growing a lot, so more people want quality bananas, especially like the ones from Ecuador,” says Celine Zhang, CFO at Ruihua Everfresh, a family-run fruit importer in Dalian in northern China.

The success of Ruihua Everfresh reflects a growing trend: a Chinese appetite for foreign foods. Consumption is on the rise and imported food is in high demand. The average growth of imported food has exceeded 20% annually for the past five years.

As bananas are a perishable commodity, and the journey by ship from Guayaquil to Dalian lasting 45 days, the requirements of importer and exporter are easily conveyed. Nickey Xue, CEO at Ruihua Everfresh and husband of Celine Zhang, explains:

“We need reliable carriers that can take full responsibility during the entire chain of transportation. This is why we see Maersk Line as a strategic business partner.”

Poster image
See how the bananas travel from Ecuador to China 3:23

See how the bananas travel from Ecuador to China

China Ecuador
1) The Sealand Ecuador feeder from Guayaquil to Balboa, Panama. 2) The AC3 Safari Pendulum from Balboa to Busan. 3) The Express Feeder from Busan to Dalian.

1/4 billion bananas with Maersk Line

In 2014, Maersk Line had an 18% share of the Ecuador/China market equivalent to 1,972 containers (forty-foot equivalent). Each container carries 1,200 cartons with 18 kilos of bananas. As each carton holds about 110 bananas, a grand total of 260 million bananas were shipped with Maersk from Ecuador to China.

For Maersk Line, linking supply and demand across the Pacific only a few years ago, the key was to understand the needs of the customers.

In this case, reliability and on-time-delivery, combined with local staff that partners with importer and exporter, were the key factors. The trade has proven to be a success, and in order to accommodate the rising demand for Ecuadoran bananas from China, Maersk Line decided to add a new feeder vessel from Guayaquil to Balboa in 2015.

Tuchok Banana

When I close the door of the container, I sleep very calmly because I know that my fruits are in the very best hands.

Ricardo

RICHARDO UMPIERREZ, CEO TUCHOK BANANA PLANTATION

Maersk Line in China
Since late 1996, 89 ocean-going vessels and 40 other kinds of ships have been ordered at yards in Mainland China at an accumulated value of USD 4.5 billion.

  • First vessel call: 1924
  • First representative office: 1984
  • Offices today: 35
  • Employees: 1,400
  • Ships built in China for Maersk: 129
  • FFE handled: 3,101,515

This increased reefer capacity by 60 containers (forty-foot equivalent) per week, which can easily be put to good use. In 2014, Ruihua Everfresh’s banana imports from Ecuador exceeded 1,000 containers and the company’s target for 2015 is to increase volumes by 30–50%. The booming business also means that Nickey Xue and Celing Zhang have seen their roles within the company change:

“We were a small start-up when we established relations in Ecuador, and we did everything by ourselves. Now we are a big banana importer and we manage and supervise the whole supply chain from imports to distribution in China,” says Nickey Xue.

Back at Tuchok banana plantation, a company that in 2007 began exporting two or three containers weekly, CEO Richardo Umpierrez looks at his employees stuff the final boxes in to a filled container, one of now 80 to 90 weekly:

“When I close the door of the container, I sleep very calmly because I know that my fruits are in the very best hands,” he says.