Costa Rica is to apply for EU protected food name status for its bananas in a move aimed at premiumising the commodity product and protecting market share.

The Central American nation plans to submit an application for Protected Geographical Indication status for Costa Rican Bananas next year, taking advantage of new rules that allow non-EU products to get the PGI/PDO marks. So far Colombian Coffee is the only non-EU product to have gained a PGI.

The application would acknowledge Costa Rican bananas as having been produced using superior environmental practices, greater social responsibility and more sustainable crop production than fruit from other countries, said Jorge Sauma, chief executive of national banana association Corbana.

"We want to create a premium banana," he said. "The way the banana is produced is very important and ours are not differentiated from others."

PGI status would not mean Costa Rican bananas would become more expensive in supermarkets, Sauma said. The move was about safeguarding future supply by giving consumers extra reasons to choose Costa Rica over other countries, with the Philippines and Ecuador expected to increasingly target the EU market with cheaper fruit.

Although the ­social and environmental efforts by growers added 10% to the cost of production, these were offset by high yields and productivity.

Consumers were more interested than ever in buying food from sources where farmers and farm workers were well treated, he said.

Although less than 1% of Costa Rican bananas are Fairtrade-certified, Sauma argued that all the country's fruit was de facto 'fair trade' because all producers offered workers free housing and healthcare and growers were guaranteed a sustainable minimum price of $7.69 per box above the international average.

A quarter of all bananas sold in UK supermarkets are from Costa Rica, with seven million boxes imported last year.

Michael Barker was reporting from San José.