By John Vidal
Just seven years ago the banana farmers of the Caribbean Island of St Lucia were hanging up their machetes and ready to turn their steep hillsides back to forest. UK subsidies for their fruit were doomed, they couldn't compete with giant "dollar" bananas from South American plantations, and a dying industry seemed to provide only back-breaking work for scant reward.
Today, the island where bananas are not so much a crop but a way of life is celebrating. Just about every St Lucian banana sold for export now commands a premium price and European supermarkets are queuing for more. Money is going into run-down schools, the banana sheds are being repaired and the farmers can scarcely believe the turn round in their fortunes.