Capitalists' ethical coffee? It isn't worth a bean

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Attempts by the food and drink giant Kraft to sell ethical coffee were criticised yesterday by the Fairtrade Foundation.

Attempts by the food and drink giant Kraft to sell ethical coffee were criticised yesterday by the Fairtrade Foundation.

The charity, which oversees the fairtrade labelling scheme, said the system used by Kraft risks confusing shoppers while failing to bring about real change for producers.

Kraft, which makes Maxwell House and Kenco, announced plans earlier this year to begin using coffee beans bought from farmers certified by the US-based Rainforest Alliance.

The seal of approval is designed to improve conditions for producers and encourage better care for the environment.

Kraft said certified farmers in central and south America were receiving a 20 per cent premium on the price of coffee beans on the open market.

Kraft has pledged to buy 2,400 tons of Rainforest Alliance coffee this year and will increase the amount as new farms join up.

The scheme does not, however, guarantee any minimum price for producers. The Fairtrade Foundation ensures its certified farmers are paid a flat rate, currently much higher than that paid by Kraft, to improve the long-term future for communities.

Ian Bretman, deputy director of the Foundation, said: "We don't want to be negative about things that are taking place to improve the sustainability of producers and I'm not saying this is a bad scheme. But our biggest concern is that shoppers could be confused between this scheme and fairtrade."

Kraft is using 100 per cent Rainforest Alliance coffee beans in a product called Kenco Sustainable Development, sold to the catering trade. It is also using a small proportion in jars of Kenco and Maxwell House sold in UK shops.

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