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IFC-FINANCED COMPANY FIRST RECIPIENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL CERTIFICATION


Brigid Janssen
Phone: (202) 458-4698
Fax: (202) 974-4384
E-mail: bjanssen@ifc.org


WASHINGTON, D.C., June 30, 2000 – An Ecuadorian agribusiness which the International Finance Corporation has financed, Reybancorp Agricolas, has become the first banana grower to receive the Rainforest Alliance certification of complete compliance with rigorous environmental and social standards.
Reybancorp which produces and exports bananas under the Favorita label as well under other international brand names, has been certified "ecofriendly" by the Rainforest Alliance and leading conservation groups in Latin America.
The Rainforest Alliance Better Banana Project certification recognizes compliance with more than 200 specific social and environmental criteria, including proper management of more than 17,000 acres of farms and clean, safe working conditions for the 3,300 workers at Reybancorp, which is the second-biggest fruit producer in Ecuador. It also salutes the company's protection of wildlife, planting of a million native hardwood trees, stream protection, erosion control and achieving the ISO 14000/SGS certificate.
IFC has provided loans and equity financing since 1992 to Favorita Fruit Company, the parent company of Reybancorp, to help it take hold as a competitive banana exporter. Most recently, IFC invested $15 million to help Favorita develop its agriculture-related infrastructure, including making boxes to pack the fruit and financing a deep-sea port to ship bananas and import fertilizer. IFC loans are conditioned on World Bank Group environmental and social standards.
"When we first obtained financing from IFC, the environmental standards seemed like an obstacle, but we realize now that they have helped us build a strong business," said Rafael Wong, Executive Vice President of Favorita. "And in five years from now, there will be no access to international markets for companies that do not show this respect for the environment. It is becoming fundamental to international trade."
"The Conservation Agriculture Network certification program is transforming the banana industry, and Reybancorp is a shining example of the kind of environmental and social progress that has been made ", said Chris Wille, Director of the Conservation Agriculture Program, Rainforest Alliance.
Favorita and Reybancorp are part of the Wong Group based in Guayaquil. The company employs 8,000 people in its own farming and related operations, and has an extensive program of buying from small independent outgrowers in Ecuador, which is the world's biggest banana exporter.
The Better Banana Project is managed by the Rainforest Alliance and leading conservation groups in Latin America. Reybancorp's 33 farms were certified by the Corporacion de Conservacion y Desarrollo (Conservation and Development Corporation) and the Rainforest Alliance, both members of the Conservation Agriculture Network.
The mission of IFC, part of the World Bank Group, is to promote private sector investment in developing countries, which will reduce poverty and improve people's lives. IFC finances private sector investments in the developing world, mobilizes capital in the international financial markets and provides technical assistance and advice to governments and businesses.