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 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.

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