Armando slowly makes his way through the banana plantation; at each step he looks closely at a banana tree, carefully inspecting its trunk, fruit, leaves and soil. He takes notes and gives instructions to the harvesting team. Nothing can be left to chance, because in just a few hours over 2,000 bunches of bananas are to be harvested and taken to the packinghouses. In total, more than 32 tonnes of bananas will be shipped to Rungis, France, where they will be ripened in chambers at SIIM’s ripening platform before being shipped to customers. Armando knows that his work is essential in order to preserve all the bananas’ sensory qualities for consumers. With 40 years of experience under his belt, he has built up expertise that allows him to produce one of the best varieties of bananas in the world, the Selvática.
Armando has devoted his entire life to banana growing. He got his first job in banana plantations at just 16, without a diploma but with a fierce determination to succeed. His commitment over the years has taken him from farmworker to production manager at the Santa Cecilia de Catarama farm in Ecuador. “Bananas are a big part of my life. Early in my career, I used to stay on after work to talk about the farm with my manager, asking him about crops and offering to help, because I was eager to learn and be useful. After a while my manager, who was well aware of my dedication and commitment, sought me out and asked me to take charge of the farm for two weeks. I kept telling myself I was going to do a good job, and indeed everything was just as he wanted when he returned. That’s when I was promoted to warehouse manager.” Since then, Armando has steadily worked his way up the ranks, relishing the different challenges that have come his way. Today, his goal is to pass his passion on to his only son Raul, aged 23, so that he can eventually follow the same path.
Ecuador combines several factors contributing to the quality of the Selvática banana, says Armando. The country’s geographical location is synonymous with nutrient-rich soil and weather conditions perfectly suited to the development of bananas (perfect rainfall and stable temperatures). On top of that, the Santa Cecilia de Catarama plantation boasts a team with unrivalled know-how, perfect command of good farming practices and a shared passion for bananas.
Interview by Maria Espinosa, SIIM sourcing manager and CSR for Latam