Ecuador's population of 13,625,000 speaks the official language, Spanish. The country occupies an area of 283,560 sq. km., is located on the Pacific coast of South America. Its geographic location has made it one of the countries severely affected by El Niño.
Ecuador's economic growth rate was estimated to have contracted by around 7.3% in 1999 precipitating a default on external loans later that year. With the former currency, the Sucre, valued at US$1.00 to 25,000 Sucres, Government took the decision to make the US dollar the official currency from 2000.
Energy and mining, fishing, agriculture (especially cut flowers), handicrafts and tourism are Ecuador's main economic sectors. Its main exports are bananas, shrimp, crude oil and other oil products, fish and fish products, cut flowers and roses, coffee, cocoa, tuna and textiles. These are traded primarily with the United States, Europe, Colombia, Chile and Japan.