Nestlé has announced that the cocoa and sugar sourced for its KitKat brand in the UK and Ireland will no longer be Fairtrade. 

After a decade of sourcing cocoa and sugar for the popular chocolate bar, Nestlé revealed that it will cut ties with Fairtrade, instead opting for farms under its own cocoa sustainability programme, Cocoa Plan, which are certified by the Rainforest Alliance. 

Meanwhile, the majority of its sugar will come from the UK, with some sourced in France. 

The move will mean a loss of almost £1.95 million in Fairtrade premium each year for cooperatives in Côte d’Ivoire, Fiji and Malawi – around 27,000 cocoa and sugar farmers in these countries will miss out on annual premiums afforded by the partnership. 

On their website, Fairtrade urged the Swiss confectionery giant to reconsider its plans, stating that: “Nestlé and Fairtrade have made a much-needed difference to farmers’ lives in the last 10 years. Cocoa cooperatives have benefitted from the safety net of the Fairtrade minimum price and the premium has meant communities have been able to invest in classrooms, dispensaries, canteens, and programmes to help women increase and diversify their income.

“Nestlé’s decision will mean all future purchases of sugar will be from European sugar beet producers, meaning cane sugar farmers will not only lose the Fairtrade premium, but could lose access to market to sell their sugar.”

The statement continued: “Future purchases of cocoa may be from the same cooperatives, but only as part of Nestlé’s own Cocoa Plan initiative, meaning no Fairtrade premium. Cocoa farmers expressed some grave concerns when they were first told about Nestlé’s decision at a joint meeting in May. They clearly stated how worried they are about the resulting income gap and the loss of freedom to decide how the Premium is spent.

“When a typical cocoa farmer in West Africa lives below the extreme poverty line and earns on average 74p per day – less than half of a living income, but only a few pence more than the price of a KitKat – it is not surprising cocoa farmers are so anxious about losing further income through this move.”

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.”

He continued: “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!”

A Fairtrade premium of about £190 per tonne of cocoa beans is paid to certified farming cooperatives. This money is then used to help build schools and health centres, and to support local communities.

However, under Nestlé’s Cocoa Plan, farmers will receive a premium of £47.80 per tonne, set by the Rainforest Alliance.

Michael Gidney, CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation said: “Fairtrade exists to represent farmer voices, standing beside them as they fight for their rights. We stand behind farmers as they applaud the benefits of the decade long partnership with Nestlé and as they ask Nestlé to reconsider this course of action at this time.

“Now, more than ever we need to act as a global community and take actions that are steps forward as we build a better future. As many businesses are scaling up commitments to Fairtrade, more farmers are benefitting from the uniqueness of Fairtrade and more shoppers in the UK able to choose from around 1,000 different Fairtrade chocolate varieties.  

“We urge Nestlé: listen to farmers, do not choose this moment of global crisis to exacerbate the inequalities in the cocoa industry. Be part of the solution and keep KitKat Fairtrade.”

Nestlé now joins other companies who have dropped their Fairtrade logo. In 2016, Mondelēz cut ties with Fairtrade, opting for its own Cocoa Life scheme; while Green and Blacks (also owned by Mondelēz) announced its non-Fairtrade edition in 2017.