Fairtrade has urged Nestlé to reconsider its decision to end a decade-long partnership of buying Fairtrade-certified cocoa for its KitKat brand.
The move would mean a loss of almost £2m in Fairtrade premiums each year for co-operatives in Côte d’Ivoire, Fiji and Malawi, representing 27,000 small scale producers, Fairtrade said.
Fairtrade claimed it has the highest fixed premium of any independent certification scheme in cocoa at $240 per tonne, which goes directly to the producers' co-operatives on top of the market price.
In a letter to Nestlé, Atse Ossey Francis, chairman of the board of directors of the Ivorian Fair Trade Network, said: “It is with deep regret and deep concern that we have learned that after proudly producing cocoa for KitKat in the UK for a decade, small cocoa farmers in Côte d'Ivoire will no longer enjoy the benefits of selling their cocoa on Fairtrade terms.
“Nestlé is one of the leading buyers of Fairtrade-certified cocoa through its KitKat brand and we are grateful for all this decade of partnership where we have contributed to the success of Nestlé. A non-Fairtrade trade relationship means regression and continued poverty.”
Fairtrade added the decision could mean all future purchases of sugar would be from European sugar beet producers and cane sugar farmers would not only lose the Fairtrade premium, but could lose access to market to sell their sugar.
“We invite Nestlé to continue negotiating with us producer representatives and the Fairtrade label in order to find ways of agreement so as to reconsider their decision not to buy on Fairtrade terms. We ask Nestlé to continue the incredible work that has been done over the past 10 years so as not to cut the lifeline of the Fairtrade Premium at a time when we producers need it most,” Francis added.
Nestlé already works with the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ (part of the Rainforest Alliance) for the majority of its responsible cocoa sourcing across its confectionary brands including Smarties and Aero. KitKat is estimated to account for 40% of the brand's total chocolate sales.
The food giant said it was a not money-saving decision and it would have the same level of spend on cocoa in 2020-21 in its partnership with the Rainforest Alliance.
Simon Billington, global technical manager for Nestlé Confectionery, said the firm was aware that “the move will have an impact on some farmers”, but said it was “working hard” to mitigate this.
“We want to continue working with our Fairtrade farmers and we will pay for them to get to the level required by the UTZ standard, which since 2018 has been part of the Rainforest Alliance certification programme. If farmers are not able to do this in time for the next crop, we will also provide them with financial support for the coming year.”
Alex Morgan, chief markets officer at Rainforest Alliance, said: “We’re delighted Nestlé is strengthening its position in the cocoa sector and unifying its responsible cocoa sourcing commitment across all of its portfolios.
“Our certification programmes continue to connect companies, consumers, farmers and businesses committed to protecting the health of ecosystems, workers, and communities by using social and market forces to protect nature and improve the lives of food producers.”
☛ Want to stay up to date with the news? Sign up to our daily bulletin.