The EU's banana import policy has been deemed to be in breach of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in a ruling that could open the market to more South American fruit.

Last week's decision by the WTO followed complaints, initially by Ecuador in 2006, that the EU had been unfairly favouring African-Caribbean-Pacific countries by granting them an annual tariff-free quota on banana imports. In contrast, Latin American countries have been subject to a tariff of €176/tonne.

Caribbean producers warned the ruling could jeopardise their livelihoods if Latin American producers were able to undercut their prices.

"Ostensibly the ruling is against the EU, but in practice it will have serious consequences for us here," said Renwick Rose, co-ordinator of Windward Islands farmers' group Winfa.

The EU said it would now look to negotiate a deal with suppliers.