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LONDON (Reuters) - British supermarket Waitrose said it is extending its commitment to using the Fairtrade logo on its teas, days after rival Sainsbury's (SBRY.L) faced criticism from shareholders for piloting a different scheme.
Upmarket chain Waitrose, which is part of the employee-owned John Lewis Partnership [JLP.UL] [JLPLC.UL], said on Monday that all 46 of its own-label tea products will be Fairtrade certified by October, up from 43 currently.
Companies can use the Fairtrade logo if they guaranteed farmers a fair price for crops and an extra premium to spend on community projects like roads and schools.
"We're proud supporters of the Fairtrade Foundation and have seen first-hand their strong track record of supporting farmers who most need it," Waitrose's Commercial Director Rupert Thomas said in a statement.
The global Fairtrade movement is represented in the UK by the Fairtrade Foundation, which was established in 1992 by charities including Christian Aid and Oxfam.
Waitrose, Britain's seventh largest supermarket retailer, first committed to the Fairtrade Foundation in 2007 and currently stocks 250 Fairtrade-certified products.
Sainsbury's, the country's second largest supermarket group, moved to 100 percent Fairtrade tea almost a decade ago, but in May it launched a pilot of its own "fairly traded" scheme on its own brand tea.
"We know that times have moved on and our farmers in Africa are facing increasing challenges. That’s why we’re now trialing a scheme where farmers receive even more funding and support than Fairtrade," a spokesman for Sainsbury's said on Monday.
"We’d be happy to share our progress with other retailers," he said.
Sainsbury's board was criticised over the pilot at its annual shareholders' meeting last Wednesday, with some private investors and campaign groups voicing concerns the scheme could be extended to other products.
That prompted Chief Executive Mike Coupe to defend the trial.
"We're committed to the base standards that Fairtrade currently apply. But we have to move them on to make sure that they cover environmental and economic standards as well," he said.
He stressed that the results of the pilot would be published "in an open and transparent way."
Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Susan Fenton