By Ben Simmons

Sales of Fairtrade products continue to out-perform overall commercial trends, with double digit growth in 2011 set grow further in 2012 as businesses continue to expand and deepen commitments to Fairtrade’s model of ethical sourcing.

The figures come on the launch of the Fairtrade Foundation's annual Fairtrade Fortnight campaign (27 February to 11 March 2012).

Estimated retail sales of Fairtrade products in 2011 reached £1.32bn, a 12% increase on sales of £1.17bn in 2010. Cocoa and sugar have all seen significant growth at respectively 34% and 21% increase over 2010. Bananas, coffee, tea are all showing steady growth. Critically, this means that Fairtrade premiums, the extra that producers receive for business or social development increased by over 10% in 2011 compared with 2010.

The theme for 2012’s campaign is Take A Step for Fairtrade, and a new briefing, launched today, reveals that it is in the sugar and confectionery industry that businesses are stepping up more than ever to meet sustainability challenges, and deliver a better deal for small scale farmers and workers, and enable them to take their own steps towards a better future.

One ‘step’ announced for Fairtrade Fortnight will bring Fairtrade’s share of the UK sugar market to 42%. Wm Morrison supermarket is converting all its sugars to Fairtrade, stocking Tate & Lyle.

This newest move by Morrison’s builds on existing retail commitments on sugar by Tate and Lyle which became the first major brand to convert to Fairtrade in 2008, The Co-operative, M&S, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and their major suppliers. Brand manufacturers have also committed to Fairtrade sugar like pioneering chocolate company Divine Chocolate and the nation’s favourite chocolate treats, Cadbury Dairy Milk and Kit Kat four-finger, with Maltesers also switching later this year; and ice-cream companies are also using Fairtrade sugar - like Ben & Jerry’s which has been rolling out a plan to convert all its ice-creams to Fairtrade this year and has introduced three new flavours for Fairtrade Fortnight 2012.

“Fairtrade is an example of responsible capitalism in action. We believe that responsible businesses are those who don’t just tackle the company bonuses at the top — but also seek to ensure a fairer deal for the workers and farmers at the bottom of the supply chain too.”, says Harriet Lamb, Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation. “The commercial reality is that forward-thinking companies are showing leadership in committing to Fairtrade, realising that, as well as it being the right thing to do, they need to invest in smallholders, developing better, longer-term relationships, to ensure the future supply of commodities like cocoa, coffee, sugar, tea, fruit and more.”

Many cafés and restaurant chains, and catering suppliers also use Fairtrade sugar, with commitments from Sodexo, Aramark and Compass. The Fairtrade campaign will receive another boost in the summer through The Food Vision for the London 2012 Games, which includes a commitment for caterers to use Fairtrade sugar across all venues.

The Fairtrade Foundation briefing Fairtrade Sugar: Starting a Sweet Revolution shows that there is plenty of reason to celebrate the very welcome news that Fairtrade has achieved such a significant share of the sugar market. While sugar is one of the most valuable globally traded agricultural commodities, above coffee and cocoa, too many sugar cane producers remain in dire poverty and sugar production in many parts of the world is becoming unsustainable because of lack of investment in farming methods and support for farming communities.

With impending EU sugar reforms looming which will jeopardise access to European markets for some of the world’s poorest sugar producing countries, poverty in sugar-growing communities is threatening to increase. The phenomenal growth in Fairtrade in recent years has had significant impact in helping farmers deal with the challenges they face, and is likely to mitigate against some of the worst effects of the EU sugar reforms.

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