The new Fairtrade Sourcing Program for cocoa, a new commodity sourcing model that also applies to sugar and cotton, was launched by Fairtrade International in January following consumer research and testing.

Already at launch nine companies have signed on to increase their Fairtrade purchases starting with initial 2014 volumes set to deliver $1.2m in additional Fairtrade Premium to cocoa farmers, by the end of this year.

The new program connects Fairtrade farmers with companies wanting to buy specific raw products on Fairtrade terms and products will carry the new Fairtrade Progam Mark for cocoa.

Vicky Pauschert from Fairtrade communication said the major change is that previously companies had to use the Fairtrade Mark with all the ingredients in chocolate such as cocoa, cacao butter, sugar, vanilla etc complying with Fairtrade standards. The previous rules still apply for the existing Faitrade Mark.

The Fairtrade Program Mark may appear on the front or back of food packaging, on a swing tag attached to a garment, or off-pack entirely in company reports or on websites. For Cocoa, 100% of the focus Ingredient for that product must be bought on Fairtrade terms.

The nine companies include Mars, major retailers such as Rewe Group, Coop, and AEON, who were the first to sign on to the new Fairtrade Sourcing Programs.

Fairtrade International CEO Harriet Lamb called the first agreements a “flying start” for the organization’s ambition to take farmers’ cocoa, sugar and cotton sales to a new level.

The early commitments alone will increase Fairtrade cocoa sales sixfold in Germany in 2014 and deliver 14% growth to Fairtrade cocoa farmers worldwide, by close to 6000 metric tonnes (MT). Many of these companies have set multi-year growth targets so Fairtrade cocoa farmers will benefit from year-on-year increases to overall volumes of cocoa sales.

The current deals will benefit existing and new Fairtrade cocoa farmers in Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Dominican Republic and Peru, with more funds to invest in farm and community projects and wider access to Fairtrade benefits including income, participation in democratic organizations and support services.

“This is the breakthrough we have been looking for. The farmers I represent in Africa have been looking to sell more cocoa as Fairtrade for a long time,” said Fortin Bley, President of the Fairtrade Africa Cocoa Network, cocoa farmer and secretary general of CANN cooperative in the Ivory Coast.

“This new program means we can already increase our Fairtrade sales. This means more Fairtrade Premium money to invest in trainings to increase the productivity of our members’ farms, thereby increasing their incomes. It means more Premium money invested in social programs like potable water, construction of schools, and more impact for our communities.”

“Cocoa is now off the starting blocks and we have big ambitions for sugar and cotton farmers, too.” said Harriet Lamb, CEO Fairtrade International.