Get more stuff like this

Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.

I no longer know which way is up. Last week we went back to the Ministry of Health office, to double check that we had the correct information required to get our health permit. Maria talks to the inspector, and he tells her “No, no, no, you don't need all those documents. Just present the same documents as last year and I'll approve it.”

We were going to need an operations manual detailing our good manufacturing practices, and an on-staff food scientist to oversee our operations, among other ludicrous demands.

Then she went downtown this morning, to make another inquiry at the central Ministry of Health office. They told her, “Yes, you need all these documents and processes in place. We don't care how small you are, you have to comply with everything on this new list.” So we have no idea, when the moment of truth comes, if we'll really get our Health permit renewed or not. It appears that we'll be treated like a major food processor, whether we really are our not.

The right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. Nobody gives you the same answer twice. It's almost impossible to know if what you're doing is correct, and to know if you're complying properly with the operating regulations. Before, it was sometimes a bit murky and ambiguous, and you weren't quite sure if you were doing the right things. Now, it's nearly impossible to tell if anyone even knows what the hell they're talking about, and it's glaringly obvious that there is no coordination between any of the regulatory agencies.

Then, to get our municipal permit renewed, this year they were requesting, for the first time, a zoning permit. So our site had to be evaluated for land use, becaue the Ministry of Production had categorized us as “industry.” However, Maria went and contested this categorization because we are by no means an industry. After getting the buck passed through over three people, she finally was able to corner somebody (during his only available office hours from 2 to 4 pm), who was willing to accept reason and help us get the business recategorized.

Of course, this meant jumping through a bunch of hoops all over again; back to the Municipality after getting our first application for renewal of our license canceled, then resubmitting all over again with the new categorization.

We're now preparing what we can and waiting for the moment of truth.

  • Stewart

    Hello Jeff,

    Maybe I missed it, but could you share where is your chocolate shop in Quito? I’d like to stop by sometime to buy some for the family.

    Best regards,


    p.s I understand the government plans to add a bunch new Ministerios to regulate us. I deal with Ministerio de Relaciones Laborales and Ministerio de Riesgos del Trabajo for work. It’s a pain at times there too, but I try to stay positive.

  • Alan

    This is completely typical in Ecuador. With so many new rules and regulations it is very realistic that no one knows whats up.

    In my experience in the past, owning a retail bakery back in the ’70s and ’80s, it was almost best to operate until an inspector actually shows up and sites you for the various items you need to correct. Once you have that it is somewhat easier to get things done.

    What most of we expats do is try to live by the rules, but the problem is nobody really knows what they are! By that I mean our Ecuadorian brethern.

    Since you have had some ample experience in Latin America it seems somewhat of a surprise that all this would not already be obvious, especially since it seems you have been to Ecuador in the past. Perhaps that is a misunderstanding.

    We will actually be there next month for the summer. Perhaps I could even help with some “palanca.” Who knows. Nothing ventured nothing gained.

    There is also a friend of mine from years past who started Chocolateca, sold it, and now has another in El Bosque.

    Alan Jarrett

  • Jeff Stern

    Hi, I’m on 10 de Agosto and Diguja, right in fron of “La Y” trolley stop, anonymous black door between Velas Tungurahua and TractoQuito.

  • Jeff Stern

    Hi Alan:

    Thanks for the reply, and know Chocolateca.

    You’re right-in some ways, nothing “new here. But what’s happened now is that it’s really hard to have a “palanca.” Tramitadores (expediters) have largely gone by the wayside-as it’s required that one do almost everything in person. Better in some ways, more transparent, but more costly in terms of time and hassle. And you stated it exactly right, nobody knows what’s up. But now, if you wait for them to inspect you and just ignore the rules, or play dumb, you get fined big time…this year if we do not comply, the fine is $1,500. No more ignorance of the law excuses, just doesn’t fly anymore.


Welcome to Destination Ecuador!

Welcome to Destination Ecuador! My family and I have been living in Ecuador for the last four and a half years. We’ve dealt with the worst kinds of red-tape, searched out or ended up making hard-to-find ingredients ourselves, imported equipment for making chocolate confections, learned the import-export business...Continue >>


Follow Destination Ecuador