The Ecuadorian government declared an emergency alert in the banana sector whereby $5 million will be allocated to support small producers of the fruit, Agriculture Minister Javier Ponce said.

In recent weeks, the situation of banana producers has "worsened" since they are "receiving prices of $2, less than $2, when the official price is $5.50," which led the government to declare the emergency in the sector, Ponce said.

Initially, part of the $5 million will be invested in fumigating all the plantations of small producers, which includes between 85 and 90 percent of the country's banana production, Ponce said.

The government will also use the money to buy bananas from the producers who had contracts to sell the product that have not been fulfilled, the agriculture minister said.

"We're not going to allow exporters to work without a contract, to impose the type of contract that they want," Ponce said.

Officials will also not let producers be charged "absolutely illegal" expenses.

The government forecasts the creation of a banana-exporting company and a state plan to convert banana-growing areas that are no longer profitable and that must be opened up to other products, he added.

"We will not allow these abuses," President Rafael Correa said Saturday in his weekly activity report in which he told Ponce that exporters who fail to fulfill their contracts must be closed.

"The intermediary action of the state is urgently needed" so that all the banana production is bought and sold to exporters "to avoid all this exploitation of small producers," Correa said.

Bananas are Ecuador's second-largest export product after petroleum. EFE