FAIRTRADE Fornight was launched with news that sales have doubled to £ 140m and the number of products have leaped from 150 in 2003 to 834.
Figures published at the beginning of Fairtade Fortnight (1st-13th March) show sales of products with the Fairtrade mark topped £ 140m in 2004, an increase of 51 percent on the 2003 figure of £ 92m.
More is being spent on the core products such as coffee, tea, bananas and chocolate, while the newer products which include flowers, wines, oils and footballs have also been very successful.
Coffee continues to be the biggest seller when it comes to UK Fairtrade sales, with the estimated retail value of sales growing from £ 13.7m in 1998 to £ 34.3m in 2003 and £ 49.3m in 2004.
Bananas are next on £ 30.6m (up from £ 24.3m in 2003 and from £ 7.8m in 2000) followed by chocolate (£ 13.6m in 2004, up from £ 9.2m in 2003) and tea (£ 12.9m in 2004, up from £ 9.6 in 2003).
Figures are estimated retail values based upon wholesale sales figures reported to the Fairtrade Foundation as part of its auditing process.
The news was announced during a reception launching Fairtrade Fortnight at HM Treasury in London.
Harriet Lamb, Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation, spoke at the event saying the relentless roller coaster of fluctuating commodity prices can have the same catastrophic effect on the lives of farmers and workers in the developing world as a natural disaster like a tsunami.
"The catastrophic falls in the prices of major commodities ? of coffee, tea, bananas, cotton, rice and sugar ? are tearing apart lives across the developing world," said Ms Lamb.
"People are forced to give up their farms, to become labourers or city slum dwellers, to take their children out of school.
"These economic disasters are all the more shocking because they are not unstoppable natural disasters; this is not the force of nature unleashed in all its fury. These are man-made disasters, entirely preventable and worse still, they carry on even though everyone knows what the effects will be."
Against this backdrop, Fairtrade is a positive model of trade which is fairer and more sustainable for farmers and has the potential to transform communities.
Ms Lamb added: "While a few are standing on the shore and watching these man-made economic tsunamis destroy lives ? even justifying inaction in the name of economic competitiveness or liberalisation of the market ? many more are getting behind Fairtrade.
"The British public showed overwhelming generosity towards the people affected by the tsunami. In the same way, when they learn about Fairtrade and the positive benefits for farmers in the developing world the response is equally dramatic, with millions now choosing to buy products with the Fairtrade Mark and make sure the farmers gain guaranteed benefits."