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Panama Banana Workers Denounce Abuse

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Panamanian banana producers are waiting for authorities to process their reports of unfair practices against the US Chiquita Brands multinational company, which forces them to sell the fruit at a loss and prevents them from exporting to other markets.

Workers of the farms in Puerto Armuelles' Multiple Service Cooperative -COOSEMUPAR-, Chiquiri Province, gave away 50,000 banana boxes to the local population on Friday in protest. Salustiano de Gracia, general secretary of the Chiquiri Land Co.

Labor Union, said the US firm, heir of the sadly well-known United Fruit Company, only pays $5 per box, based on a ten-year contract signed in 2003, but that means a loss of $2.18 per box for the producers, who are demanding review of the contract and a price increase to $8.

We are working to give the product away to Chiquita, said the union leader, saying they also suffer the high cost of oil, fertilizers and other supplies and cannot sell the fruit to other wholesalers, such as Spaniards, Italians, or Russians willing to pay more.

The Consumer Protection's Free Competition Authority board of directors reported it is investigating whether Chiquita International Company, Ltd. benefits from a monopolistic practice in the contract signed with COOSEMUPAR.

However this is a meticulous process that will take time, thus Chiriqui's producers are losing their patience because, according to their reports, Chiquita wants to starve them to death.

[News Source]

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