Nestle criticised for ending link between Kitkat and the Fairtrade Organisation

Nestle has severed ties with Fairtrade over its production of KitKat

We are a nation with a sweet tooth. And one of our favourite treats is the KitKat. Up to five million are made each day in the Nestlé factory in York. But now the chocolate and wafer bar is at the centre of a row which has left some anti-poverty campaigners with a bitter taste in their mouths.

KitKat production at York Credit: ITV Calendar

For 10 years, Nestlé UK has been buying Fairtrade cocoa from farmers, principally in Africa, to manufacture its KitKat bars in York.

But last month, the Swiss confectionery giant announced it was to sever the ties between KitKat and the Fairtrade Foundation.

Now an online petition organised by the Fairtrade Yorkshire co-ordinator Joanna Pollard has attracted more than 250,000 names calling on Nestlé to rethink its plans. Signatories include a clutch of famous names such as Countdown host Nick Hewer; Casualty, Dr Who actor Adjoa Ando, TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and former footballer Neville Southall.

They say the tie-up between Nestlé and the Fairtrade Foundation has guaranteed thousands of the world's poorest cocoa farmers in the Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire) a minimum price for their crop.

Farmers earn as little as 74 pence a day Credit: Fairtrade

Nestlé now wants to accredit the farmers instead with another charity, the Rainforest Alliance. Nestlé UK says its combined spending on premiums and investment in community projects and what it calls a Living Income Pilot in the 2020-21 season will significantly exceed what it would have paid in Fairtrade premiums.

The company says it is "aware that the move will have an impact on some farmers, and we are working hard to mitigate this." But critics argue the move away from Fairtrade could lead to the farmers - some of whom earn as little as 74p a day - losing 30 per cent of their income

Atse Ossey Francis, of the Ivorian Fair Trade Network, said Fairtrade International's study on producers' income showed that 58% of cocoa producers in Côted'Ivoire live below the poverty line.

The results of this study reinforce the fact that collective efforts are more than ever needed to raise the dignity of producers. 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.

Atse Ossey Francis, Ivorian Fair Trade Network,

The Halifax MP Holly Lynch is urging Nestle to reconsider its decision

Nestlé has now agreed to meet with Joanna Pollard whose petition has attracted so many names and in a statement said they were 'investing in a series of initiatives' to help farmers.

This includes £1m to develop a living income pilot and a further £500,000 for community projects. The pilot will work by agreeing targets or commitments in advance with farmers and co-operatives for good agricultural practices, reforestation, child labour and alternative incomes.

Direct cash payments are made to farmers for achieving them. What it means in practice is that not only will farmers have the opportunity to boost their income, they will be benefiting their farms, their families and the local environment in doing so.

Nestle UK

And while you read this, thousands more KitKats have churned off the production line at Nestlé's factory in York.