Fairtrade cotton on the high street

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Clothes made with Fairtrade cotton could soon be sold in high-street stores following the product's British launch.

According to the Fairtrade Foundation, cotton could soon match the success of ethically traded coffee and tea. The group is in talks with retailers which it hopes will stock Fairtrade goods. Ten have already signed up. T-shirts, jeans and cotton wool are among the items available for sale.

Fairtrade-certified cotton comes from small farmers in India, Peru, Mali and Senegal. They must meet criteria relating to labour and environmental practices. In return they get a guaranteed minimum price plus a premium to be put into development projects.

The Fairtrade Foundation director, Harriet Lamb, said she was confident there would be strong UK demand for the new cotton products. "Our experience is that the public is willing to pay a little bit more if they know the farmers can send their children to school, have clean drinking water and have access to health facilities."

Yesterday's launch was supported by Oxfam, which is lobbying for an end to US and EU cotton subsidies which, it says, skew the international market.

Up to 100 million rural households globally are involved in cotton production.