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Last Updated: Monday, 12 September 2005, 14:01 GMT 15:01 UK
EU proposes new Latam banana duty
Costa Rican banana worker
"Banana wars" have been rumbling on since the 1990s
The EU has reduced its proposed banana import duty in the latest round of the "banana wars" that have pitted Europe against Latin American exporters.

The new rate of 187 euros ($230; 126) a tonne from 2006 comes after the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled against plans for a 230-euro tariff.

The EU wants to increase duty on Latin American bananas but abolish quotas.

Bananas from African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) nations - mostly former EU colonies - are to remain duty-free.

ACP countries have traditionally enjoyed preferential access to the EU's markets for their bananas.

EU officials said they were confident that the new lower level of duty for Latin American producers satisfied the WTO's objections.

Discriminatory

At the moment, Latin American banana exports to the EU are limited, with the duty per tonne set at 75 euros for the first 2.7 million tonnes of exports, rising after that to 680 euros per tonne.

Following a series of rows in the 1990s, the EU was forced to introduce a new set of tariffs for the fruit by 1 January 2006, as the present system was regarded as discriminatory against US and Latin American companies.

But Latin American nations - many of whose plantations are owned by US fruit giants Chiquita, Dole and Del Monte - want the quotas swept away without any tariff increases.

Nine countries - Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Brazil, Nicaragua and Venezuela - argued that the 230-euro tariff broke a WTO-brokered accord that the changes should "at least maintain" their access to the EU market.

They successfully argued before the WTO that the proposals would have cost producers more and threatened livelihoods.

The WTO found in their favour, but did not indicate what level of duty would be acceptable.

Latin American producers currently make up about 60% of the EU market, with African and Caribbean producers taking a further 20%.

EU-grown bananas - mainly from Spanish and French islands - make up the final 20%.




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