Sales of Fairtrade products hit £493 million in the UK last year, up 81 per cent on the previous year, according to the Fairtrade Foundation.

As Fairtrade Fortnight starts today (February 25, 2008), Fairtrade Foundation said sales of products have been increasing by more than 40 per cent year on year since 2002.

Fairtrade bananas are the best-selling product under the brand, with sales topping£150 million, an increase of 130 per cent. One in four bananas sold are now Fairtrade and UK consumers eat 3 million Fairtrade bananas a day. In addition, the volume (by weight or number) of Fairtrade produce has more than doubled since 2006.

Sugar producer Tate & Lyle has announced it is switching its retail cane sugar range to Fairtrade within two years. In its first year alone, this will increase the total volumes of Fairtrade sugar sold in the UK tenfold.

“After years of chipping away, Fairtrade supporters are finally beginning to make some significant impression on the way companies trade. Increasing numbers of people in the UK are buying Fairtrade goods as a practical action everyone can take to help tackle poverty in the developing world,” said Fairtrade Fortnight executive director Harriet Lamb.

“But the pace of change must quicken. The scale and level of poverty worldwide demands urgently that we all play our part to scale up Fairtrade.”

The strapline of Fairtrade Fortnight is “Change Today. Choose Fairtrade”, calling on individuals and companies to increase their Fairtrade activity. Recent developments by UK retailers have included Sainsbury’s and Waitrose moving all its bananas to Fairtrade and the Co-op switching all its hot beverages to Fairtrade.