Major retailers and suppliers including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Cadbury are backing a scheme to help suppliers in developing countries trade their way out of poverty.

The government has launched the £2m Food Retail Industry Challenge Fund in a bid to boost African exports to the UK.

Under the scheme, producers from the developing world will partner UK retailers and suppliers who match fund projects to help them meet the required European certification and supermarket standards. 

The initiative had been launched in response to growing interest in ethical consumerism, said Gareth Thomas, minister for trade and development. It would also help meet increasing demand for produce that cannot be grown in the UK. 

Suppliers in developing countries often lacked the necessary supply chain or UK market know-how to export, he said. 

“The ability to trade effectively with the UK is making a big difference to local economies in Africa,” he added. 

“Building this bridge directly between retailer and producer means businesses can work together to see what’s viable and get support to kickstart a long-term solution.” 

Tesco and Sainsbury’s said they were keen to get involved. “Sainsbury’s is looking into how it can get involved,” said a spokeswoman. “The fund is very relevant to the work we already do with our Fair Development Fund.”