The High Court in the Argentine province of Rio Negro has ordered a leading pome fruit company Ecofrut to pay over US$100,000 to settle a lawsuit over prices with a producer, according to a story by Rionegro.com.ar.
The lawsuit was filed in 2012 by Norma Elizabeth Ramirez who claimed Ecofrut had not paid the contractual price of the fruit.
Ecofrut president Denis Kloster told www.freshfruitportal.com the dispute related to a provincial law implemented in August 2010, granting tax benefits to the buyer if it agreed to minimum prices for growers' fruit.
"In 2010 the government imposed a minimum price of 29 cents [per kilo] but we had paid 26 cents as that was the contract price," Kloster said.
The contracts between Ramirez and Ecofrut were allegedly made in January and April 2010 under verbal agreement. Kloster claims the contract price was 26 cents per kilo, while Ramirez reportedly said it was 33 cents.
"They made the claim against us with the courts and we successfully appealed at the first stage, and at the second stage, but then in the end it went to the High Court who sided with the grower," Kloster said.
"The trouble is that the law was put in place to protect small producers - that was the spirit of the law. But it ended up protecting a producer which is not small by any means.
"That's what happened. It's not that the company was withholding money from the producer, but in fact the producer claimed more money after the new law had been implemented. It's one of the very few times something like this has happened in the world," Kloster alleged.
"But hey, that's what the law says. We in this company are very respectful of the law. So what can you do? Not much, apart from using the available legal means we still have."
Kloster said Ecofrut is now considering whether or not to take the last remaining legal option of appealing to the Federal Supreme Court, for which it has 10 days to do so.