The baobab fruit has the potential to be a $1bn industry that could transform the livelihoods of African farmers, claims PhytoTrade Africa, a trade promotion organisation representing southern African nations.

PhytoTrade has submitted an application to the EU's Novel Foods Committee calling for African producers to be allowed to export the fruit to Europe. Under EU law, food that does not have a significant history of consumption in the EU before 1997 must be approved for export.

African growers hope to receive approval for baobab - a tangy fruit that can be eaten fresh or processed - in the next two months. The fruit would initially be targeted at manufacturers as an ingredient for products such as cereal bars, and supplied as a milled free-flowing powder or depectinised extract.

Baobab is widely grown and eaten in countries including Botswana, Namibia and Malawi.