Ecuador reforms banana industry laws to protect growers, regulate illegal fields
Ecuador is overhauling the rules for its banana industry, aiming to bring illegal fields under regulation, to enforce contracts and to fine those who do not pay the official price per carton for the fruit, according to local newspaper El Universo.
“Currently there are 110,000 hectares of illegal banana plantations, which represent 115 million boxes per year, that is, half of banana exports come from fruit that is not legal,” he is quoted as saying.
He added that the regulations will work so that growers can market the fruit at the official price and avoid being exploited by certain exporters, who sometimes pay only $2 a carton.
He said that for this group, who number about 6,000, a temporary permit will be issued so that they can sign contracts with exporters and can plant fruit for the next year.
The minimum price will be set by the Agriculture Ministry. It is now working on a rule to set two prices, one for a high season and one for the low, which would be established in December, according to the website.
The reform also calls for all growers, marketers and exporters to sign contracts and respect the clauses or else they cannot export. It also strengthens the fines for exporters who do not pay for the fruit.
Cecilio Jalil, director of Asisbane, a growers and exporters group, said the reforms benefit both sectors, because the current law has many shortcomings, the website said.
Last month, banana growers threatened to strike because of government-backed sourcing of Ecuadorian bananas to the Libyan firm at the end of July. Local paper El Comercio reported then that some 160,000 cartons of bananas were shipped at a fixed rate of US$ 5.40 per carton, but only US$ 2 per carton had been paid, and a second shipment had not received any payment. The conflict was later resolved with the government paying the difference.