GUAYAQUIL, April 11 (Reuters) - Banana growers from three provinces in Ecuador blocked main roads across the South American country on Monday to demand government action to boost prices they say are too low for them to meet production costs.
Growers were blocking major highways in the provinces of El Oro, Guayas and Los Rios with rocks and stones, saying 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 the province of Guayas told Reuters, but growers receive a maximum of $1.50 per box.
"All of the producers and our collaborators are out to call for, to demand that they respect our minimum price," Carrera told Reuters via telephone. "The authority must force companies to respect the official price of $6.25 for an 18-kilogram box of bananas."
Banana crops are 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 country's government should cover the cost of fumigations or guarantee sales, other growers said.
"We ask that the government solve part of 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," 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 would address the issue.
"This is a very sensitive issue, rest assured the President will manage the issue responsibly," Alava said.
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