Chiquita Brands International has announced a fall in banana prices in EU countries.

In the European Union, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland, Chiquita's average banana prices declined 17% on a local currency basis in the first two months of the 2006 third quarter, compared to the same period a year ago, reflecting unseasonably warm weather in many parts of Europe that depressed consumer demand.

The fruit company also said that regulatory changes in the market have resulted in an increase in market competitors at the low end of the price spectrum.

In January 2006, the European Commission implemented a new regulation for the importation of bananas into the European Union, imposing a tariff rate of EUR176 (US$223) per metric ton on bananas imported from Latin America, up from EUR75 per metric ton under the former regime.

The volume of bananas the company sold in its core European markets rose 11% overall in the July-August 2006 period, and banana volume sold in the company's trading markets, comprised of European and Mediterranean countries that do not belong to the European Union, rose to approximately 3.6m boxes versus 0.9m boxes in the year-ago two-month period.

In North America, average banana prices in the US and Canada rose 10% in the first two months of the 2006 third quarter versus the same period last year.

Banana prices in the Asia Pacific and the Middle East fell 11% in July-August 2006, compared to a year ago. The volume of bananas the company sold in Asia Pacific and the Middle East rose 20% year-over-year in the two-month period, due primarily to growth in markets outside of Japan.