Seven deaths, 8,000 cases of dengue reported; Bad meat removed from Cuenca stores; Dragon fruit exports break record; Anti-mining protests planned

Mar 15, 2024 | 0 comments

Ecuador’s Health Ministry reported Thursday that the country has recorded seven deaths and more than 8,000 cases of mosquito-borne dengue fever since the beginning of 2024.

As the rainy season begins in the coastal region of the country, more cases are expected in what health officials say is the worst outbreak in years. They say that pools of standing water, poor waste collection and high temperatures have allowed the proliferation of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito which spreads the disease.

Exports of pitahaya, or dragon fruit, are soaring and growers say market demand is growing rapidly. Most of the fruit is grown in Morona Santiago Province.

The provinces with the highest incidence of the disease are Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas with more than 1,365, followed by Manabí with 1,194 cases as of March 11.

This year dengue has proliferated more rapidly than in previous years, with 1137 cases reported while in the same period of 2023, there were 477 cases.

Ecuador joins the list of South American countries facing a dengue health emergency with Colombia, Peru, Brazil and Bolivia reporting tens-of-thousands of cases each.

Contaminated meat removed from Cuenca stores
Following a warning from the National Agency for Health Regulation (ARCSA), Cuenca investigators have removed more than 100 units of processed meat from area stores.

According to the Cuenca district ARCSA office, the packages in question — salami, ham, sausage and meat pies — were either expired or showed signs of contamination and discoloration. Technicians said the products were sold under various labels and were sold in supermarkets, including Supermaxi, Coral and Super Aki.

Cuenca ARCSA officials say inspections are continuing and ask residents to report suspected cases of contaminated meat products on the ARCSA website.

Dragon fruit exports break record
Ecuador growers report an impressive 72% increase in exports of pitahaya, commonly known as dragon fruit, in 2023 and say another large increase is expected in 2024. According to analysts at Ecuador’s Central Bank, 2023 exports of the yellow fruit amounted to $172 million, a record for foreign sales.

A pitahaya growers association predicts “continued phenomenal demand growth” in the coming years and believes China could overtake the U.S. in total sales within five years. “In 2023, 80% of the exported crop went to the United States but we believe the trade agreement with China will open an even larger market,” the association said.

Ecuador Production Minister Sonsoles García agrees and says “in the short-term, the sky is the limit for pitahaya exports. The demand is very strong and is moving into new markets, such as China,” she says.

She added that growing, packing and shipping the fruit provides a livelihood for 15,000 families in Morona Santiago Province.

Anti-mining protests in Cotopaxi Province
The Indigenous and Peasant Movement of Cotopaxi (MICC) and the Political Council of Pachakutik announced Wednesday that they will mount protests against proposed silver and gold mines near the Pampas and Palo Quemado communities in Cotopaxi Province. The protests are scheduled for March 20 and 27.

MICC claims the mines will pollute water sources and contaminate the air near operations. It is also protesting new government rules it says attempt to bypass the constitutional guarantee of prior consultation with local residents.

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