A European Commission committee which is debating whether to impose trade restrictions on citrus fruits has failed to reach a final decision.
The committee on plant health will wait until its next Brussels meeting in a month's time to decide whether to introduce a ban on fruits from South Africa and South America, from where Britain gets its entire summer citrus supply.
The Ministry of Agriculture is fighting swingeing restrictions and British producers are angry that other member states support a ban which would give Mediterranean citrus growers control of the European market.
Southern European fruit is harvested in the winter and the proposed ban, sponsored by Greece, would lead to chronic shortages and high prices of citrus in British shops this summer.
Doug Henderson, chief executive of the Fresh Produce Consortium, said: "We will not allow them to creep this through in carpet slippers." Ian BurrellReuse content