The European Commission has fined banana importers Dole and Weichert EUR60.3m (US$81.9m) after ruling that the two companies - alongside Chiquita Brands International - broke EU laws on price fixing.

The Commission said the companies had formed a cartel to fix banana prices in eight EU markets, including Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.

"It was found that Chiquita, Dole and Weichert formed a cartel between 2000 and 2002 in breach of the EU's antitrust laws," a spokesperson for the Commission said.

In a statement released this morning, the Commission said that Chiquita was not fined because the company provided information that allowed the Commission to open its investigation.

Californian produce group Dole was fined a total of EUR45.6m while Germany's Weichert and Del Monte, which controlled Weichert at the time of the infringement, were jointly fined EUR14.7m.

Responding to the news, Dole said that it would fight the Commission's decision.

"The company believes that it has not violated the European competition laws, and it intends to appeal this decision and the fine imposed," the company said in a statement.