Ecuador banana growers from three provinces blocked main roads across the country on Monday to demand government action to boost prices they say are too low for them to meet production costs. Protesters used rocks, dirt and vegetation to distrupt traffic in El Oro, Guayas and Los Rios Provinces and say they are struggling to break even because their share of sales is too low.
The cost to produce each 18-kilogram box of bananas has risen above $5, Mirella Carrera, a banana producer from Guayas Province told Reuters, but growers currently receive a maximum of $1.50 per box.
“All of the producers and our collaborators are demanding that the government respect our minimum price,” Carrera told Reuters via telephone. “The authority must force companies to pay the official price of $6.25 for an 18-kilogram box of bananas.”
Banana crops are one of the main source of employment in Ecuador’s agricultural sector and almost two-thirds of production comes from small producers with less than 30 hectares The government should cover the cost of fumigations or guarantee sales, growers say.
“We ask that the government solve this serious problem, either by buying bunches from the small banana producers or, if not, that it pay up for the (pest) fumigations, which is the most expensive part of our production,” banana producer Eduardo Novillo said via a phone call with Reuters.
The situation has worsened since Russia invaded Ukraine, interrupting shipments to the two countries that together consume around a quarter of Ecuador’s banana exports, Agriculture Minister Pedro Alava said during a press conference in Guayaquil. He added that President Guillermo Lasso is away of the growers plight and would address the issue.
“This is a very sensitive matter since it affects so many growers and workers. Rest assured the President will manage the issue responsibly,” Alava said.