Formal agreement has been given to a reformed import regime for Caribbean bananas by the EU Council of Ministers, (agriculture), following a political deal that was struck in December. It is expected that this new system will lead to an end of the long running WTO dispute between Brussels, the US and a string of Latin American countries. EU ministers have agreed to impose a transitional system of tariff quotas, of 2.2 million tonnes and 353,000 tonnes, both at €75/tonne, open to all suppliers. A third, new, quota of 850,000 tonnes will be opened to all suppliers at a maximum rate of €300/tonne. A tariff-only system will enter into force by January 2006.

By Keith Nuthall, correspondent