ECONOMY: AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY, LIVESTOCK AND FISHING
According to smber, it is in the agricultural sector which is particularly felt the lack of incisive state reforms, although since 1976 have been subject to gradual confiscation of all large estates that were not cultivated for more than 80% of their surface and the five-year development plan for 1980- 84 has devoted most of the investments to the modernization of agriculture and the construction of adequate irrigation works: approx. 59.8%. of land classified as uncultivated or unproductive much could be used for crops, which cover approx. only 9% of the Ecuadorian area. Agriculture actually has two faces: on the coast there are very productive, mostly medium-sized companies (but largely in the hands of Americans), conducted with a large capital base and with very modern techniques, where products destined for export are grown; in the Sierra a few immense land holdings are contrasted by hundreds of thousands of micro-funds of less than 5 ha, where farmers, often reduced to a standard of living of pure subsistence, devote themselves to crops of immediate consumption, on soils that are now too exploited and with systems antiquated and not very productive. The Coast, in addition to supplying the key products for the country’s economy, namely bananas (of which Ecuador was the fourth largest producer in the world in 2007), high-quality cocoa, coffee, sugar cane, numerous varieties of fruit (such as mangoes, papayas, pineapples, citrus fruits), cotton, tobacco etc., as well as some particular palms, such as Phytelephas macrocarpa, from whose fruit the so-called vegetable ivory (corozo), used in the button industry, and Carludovica are extracted palmata, which supplies the fiber used to make the so-called panama hats. In the intermontane basins of the Sierra instead, cereals (especially maize and rice), cassava, potatoes, legumes and, in some more protected and well-irrigated areas, fruit crops are grown. § Just under 40% of the land area is occupied by forests not yet adequately exploited due above all to the difficulty of transport; among the numerous forest products there are balsa, of which Ecuador is the world’s largest producer, and various tanning substances. In the early years of the century. XXI, however, the forestry heritage has seen an intensification of exploitation, which has increased the rate of deforestation. According to the UNEP (United Nations Environment Program), Ecuador’s rainforests have decreased from 59% to 40% of the land area in twenty years. The deforestation of mountain slopes often causes environmental problems and an increased risk of erosion. § The livestock sector also appears susceptible to development, which today still plays a modest role in the national economy, barely covering the demands of the internal market. Cattle, sheep and pigs prevail, plus a large number of poultry; in the mountain areas donkeys and mules are widely used as means of transport, in addition to the traditional lamas. § On the other hand, fishery products (shrimps, lobsters, tuna, etc.) are mainly destined for export: this is a developing sector to which the government has dedicated large investments; the current quantity of fish, in fact, has grown considerably.
ECONOMY: TRADE, COMMUNICATIONS AND TOURISM
Foreign trade is quite lively, mostly active (Ecuador mainly exports oil, coffee, cocoa and bananas, while it mainly imports machinery and means of transport, mechanical and chemical products); trade takes place with the United States, followed by Colombia, Brazil, China and Chile for imports; United States, Peru, Colombia, Chile and, in fifth place, Italy, for exports. § The inadequacy of communication routes constitutes a serious obstacle to Ecuador’s economic development, the strengthening of which is made very difficult by the presence of inaccessible mountains and almost impenetrable forests. The Sierra it is crossed from N to S by the railway line (in total extended for about 965 km in 2005) which connects the Andean centers; the most important trunk branches off from Quito, connecting the capital with Guayaquil, the country’s main port. Other port centers are Manta, Balao, Puerto Bolívar. However, most of the traffic is absorbed by the road network, which in 2004 covered a network of 43,197 km, of which 6467 were asphalted; of particular importance is the Pan-American motorway (carretera), which in Ecuador runs for almost 1400 km, also winding through the Sierra. Finally, internal and foreign communications make use of a good air network (the main airports, both international, are Mariscal Sucre near Quito and Simón Bolívar near Guayaquil); the largest airline is Empresa Ecuatoriana de Aviación (EEA). § Other sources of income are made up of income from tourism: the Galápagos archipelago, natural habitat of plant and animal species unique in the world, is the main destination for foreign visitors to the country.