Sainsbury's this week pledged to support farmers in troubled areas as it introduced Equal Exchange, a Fairtrade organic olive oil from the Palestinian West Bank.

Retailers had a responsibility to offer producers a chance to sell their wares, said head of Fairtrade Liz Jarman. “The reality for many farmers on the ground is that for whatever reason, they may be living in poverty and a big organisation such as Sainsbury's can offer routes to market through Fairtrade.”

Farming was the predominant industry in the West Bank and listings in major supermarkets were hugely important to the economy, said Nasser Abufraha, head of the Palestinian Fairtrade Organisation.

“Farming is the primary source of income. Because we have limited access to water, a lot of farmers are moving to non-fresh products such as olive oil. We are offering a really premium product, with organic certification.” The oil delivered on quality as well as ethical grounds, Jarman stressed. “We want great-tasting products for our customers. Therefore we source from wherever we get the best product – it is not just a political statement.”

The oil has also gained listings in The Co-operative Group and US branches of Whole Foods Market.