THE Co-operative Group has announced that it is to switch all Co-op brand instant and ground coffee to Fairtrade.
And the society is calling on the big multinational ?roasters', whose brands include Nescafe and Maxwell House, to overcome their fears and launch their own Fairtrade coffee labels.
Overnight, the Movement's conversion to 100 per cent Fairtrade will boost the value of the UK Fairtrade coffee market by 15 per cent or £ 4 million, returning a total of £ 750,000 to growers.
Under Fairtrade, coffee growers get a fair price – currently double or triple the global market price, depending on which coffee beans are used. With conventional agreements, growers get just over half what it actually costs to grow the beans, meaning that they are effectively subsidising our coffee drinking.
The Group is encouraging Co-op customers, in-store and through a dedicated ?Roast your Roaster' section on its website, to demand that the manufacturers of their favourite brands launch at least one Fairtrade line.
The ground-breaking move follows Oxfam's revelation that, with global coffee prices at their lowest in real terms for 100 years, 25 million small growers are facing starvation because their labour no longer provides a living.
Oxfam has revealed that since it launched its Coffee Rescue Plan a year ago, roasters have made little headway in tackling the crisis.
Adrian Lovett, Oxfam's director of campaigns and communications, said: `What the Co-op has done is fantastic. If the big coffee companies showed this kind of commitment, then millions of growers across the world would be able to feed their families and send their children to school.
` Global giants such as Nestle and Kraft make millions on brands like Nescafe and Maxwell House while coffee growers receive a pittance.`
According to the Co-op Group, the roasters' reluctance to introduce Fairtrade lines is down to fear of the financial impact of paying more for their beans, fear of loss of control in their relationships with suppliers and fear of the impact on their reputation and brands.
The Group estimates that if the big three roasters supplying the UK paid a Fairtrade price for their brands, growers would be at least £ 50 million a year better off.
Malcolm Hepworth, the Co-op Group's Chief Operating Officer, Co-operative Retail , commented: `The coffee crisis is complex and Fairtrade is only part of the solution. But it's the simplest way we can make a real and immediate difference.
`Immediate, because all consumers have to do is buy Fairtrade. Real, because growers will get much more for their coffee.`