At the beginning of last month, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) announced that it would start an audit of 245 banana exporting companies, as well as the country's 15 export associations, in order to verify that they were paying the minimum support price of the box of bananas, set at 6.25 dollars.
According to Diario Expreso, 17 of these companies could be sanctioned and 6 already have a hearing scheduled where they might be indicted; in particular Ecuagreenprodex, Sentilver, Frutical, Banacalm, Green Life, and Chiquita.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock accuses them of defaulting on the payment of the official price, not using the official payment system, and falsifying shipment plans.
Reporters tried to communicate with these companies to hear their versions, but only two responded: Exporsweet and Agroproban, which are represented by lawyer Tito Quintero Rodriguez.
Quintero was surprised because the companies he represents have not been notified. So far, all there is an audit report. "We cannot talk about an exporter's responsibilities yet because there is no support for the administrative file that concludes that the sector is liable," he said.
The Minister of Agriculture, Bernardo Manzano, told the media that 59 of all the companies investigated to date have been audited. He also confirmed that they were opening proceedings for various reasons. 9 of them are being opened because the companies are not using the interbank payment system to leave no evidence of how much they paid for each box of bananas, which must be 6.25 dollars.
They were also starting proceedings to sanction companies that did not pay the minimum support price. There will be proceeding for another 5 companies for having false shipment plans. These companies could be economically sanctioned, Manzano stated.
The minister emphasized that the companies would be fined 20 to 50 times the amount of damage they caused to the farmers and that they also had to pay producers what they owed them.