Campaigners have delivered petitions with 300,000 signatures to Nestle in York to protest at its decision to move away from using Fairtrade cocoa and sugar in KitKat bars.
The company’s famous KitKat brand has been a flagship Fairtrade product for ten years, and the partnership has helped tens of thousands of small scale farmers in Cote d’Ivoire and beyond in that time, the Fairtrade Foundation said.
The Fairtrade scheme seeks to empower producers, pays them a fair price for their products, and delivers a premium payment to help communities develop their businesses and local services such as clinics and schools.
But the Swiss-owned food giant said it will now source its cocoa for KitKat bars from farms on Rainforest Alliance terms, instead of those working with Fairtrade accreditation.
Nestle, which already uses Rainforest Alliance-certified farmers on other bars such as Aero and Yorkie, has said it will start the new partnership for KitKat from this month.
The Fairtrade Foundation said vulnerable cocoa farmers would lose out on around £1.37 million a year in premium payments, and would have less control over how they spend their money.
Sugar farmers will lose more than £500,000 in annual premium payments.
Overwhelmed by support
Joanna Pollard, co-ordinator of Fairtrade Yorkshire, who started a petition which has garnered 284,000 signatures, said: “As soon as I heard the news that KitKats would no longer be Fairtrade, I knew this would be devastating for thousands of farmers.
“Under the Fairtrade system, they have a seat at the table and make their own decisions about where their money is spent. The farmers I’ve spoken to feel that selling their crop on Fairtrade terms is vital for their communities.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the support the petition has had from almost 300,000 people all over the world, and reading their reasons for signing, it’s clear that they want to take a stand in support of farmers.”
A further 20,000 people also signed a second petition started independently by the Co-operative Party calling on Nestle not to break away from Fairtrade.
The petitions were handed in on Thursday (1 October), which marks the date of the start of the annual cocoa harvest in Cote d’Ivoire.
What Nestle says
A Nestle spokesperson said the larger petition carried inaccuracies and asked people who had signed it to look at the mission of Rainforest Alliance and the work the company was doing through the Nestle Cocoa Plan.
“It all serves to underline that we want to help further improve the lives of cocoa farmers through a number of different initiatives and by increasing our overall investment in sustainable cocoa.
“From today, all of our cocoa in the UK & Ireland will be certified by Rainforest Alliance bringing these two KitKat products into line with the rest of Nestle’s confectionery range. Before we made this decision, and throughout our notice period with Fairtrade, we have listened carefully to farmers.
“We have used their input to create a comprehensive package to support their needs through the transition.
“We now have a solid and consistent platform to make cocoa more sustainable and, ultimately, that’s what everybody wants to achieve. Meanwhile, we continue to work closely with Fairtrade elsewhere in our portfolio where we believe the partnership helps us reach the right outcomes,” the spokesperson said.