Banana producers in the Windward Islands have staked a claim to a larger share of the EU's lucrative banana trade.

They want buyers at UK multiples to stock more of their fruit to ensure the survival of the islands' primary industry and have warned that some farmers may otherwise become involved in the drug trade.

In the latest broadside in the long-running battle over EU market access, Caribbean economic expert Dr Christopher Stange has likened the effect of free trade on the former British islands to piracy and said that Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent would face irreversible economic decline if they continued to be undercut by Latin American imports.

He said: "Society, supermarkets and governments as a whole have two choices: Take action, know where your bananas are coming from and stop this injustice of piracy, or ignore the matter, purchase the

marginally lower-priced bananas and relegate forever the Windward banana trade to the depths of Davy Jones' locker."

Almost a third of employment and more than half of exports in the islands is derived from the banana trade. But it has suffered from the EU's move towards a single-tariff system that levies ,176 on each tonne of fruit once the 775,000-tonne quota, open to African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, is filled.

"It rests on the shoulders of the UK and EU public to choose Windward bananas," said Dr Stange.

Fruit from the islands was better tasting, organic or sprayed with fewer pesticides, and produced in more socially and environmentally friendly conditions than Latin American fruit, added Dr Stange, who is launching a campaign to raise the profile of Windward bananas. He is working with consumer press and plans to approach retailers to promote the use of the Windwards' logo on bananas.