Sainsbury's is to significantly increase the amount of food and drink it sources from Africa.

The retailer held conferences last week in Nairobi and Cape Town, attended by 150 suppliers, to help improve relations.

It currently generated £500,000 of sales from African tea, coffee, stone fruit and vegetables, and planned to build on this, said head of Fairtrade Liz Jarman.

The conferences had allowed Sainsbury's directors including trading director Mike Coupe and director of brand Judith Batchelar to discuss with producers how to improve the supply chain in a continent with poor infrastructure and a highly fragmented network of farms, she added.

"There are challenges such as infrastructure and roads, soil health, water usage, ethical standards and how you make what you produce very competitive and great quality."

Retailers including Walmart and Tesco have cut out sourcing middlemen, buying more produce direct. Sainsbury's had also discussed how to improve its international supply chain, said Jarman.

"We need to work much more closely together, and wherever possible shortening the supply chain does benefit the customer."

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