The amount of money spent on Fairtrade products soared by 41% in 2006, according to the latest figures from the sector.

Consumers worldwide spent EUR1.6bn (US$2.2bn) on Fairtrade goods last year, with cocoa, coffee, tea and bananas showing robust growth.

The figures, published by the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO), also showed that more "licensees" - companies that sell the final packaged Fairtrade products - also rose last year. Licensees grew from 1,514 to 1,954 during 2006, the FLO said.

UK retailer The Co-operative Group has backed Fairtrade since its inception. Brad Hill, the retailer's Fairtrade strategy development manager, said 2006 had been "a great year" for the sector.

"Our consumers continue to support our Fairtrade offer, and the fact that so many other businesses are engaging with Fairtrade demonstrates that consumer demand generally is increasing," Hill told just-food today (1 August). "Co-op's Fairtrade sales increased by 29% in 2006 and every year we have seen growth-on-growth."

The FLO argued that, despite the boom in Fairtrade sales, the sector still has "plenty of room" for expansion. The FLO said that only a fifth of the food produced by Fairtrade-certified producers is sold under Fairtrade terms.

"While recognising the contribution Fairtrade has made to farm families over the last ten years, we cannot be satisfied," said Barbara Fiorito, chair of the FLO's board of directors.

"We need people to shout even louder, and we need companies to respond with genuine engagement. Otherwise millions of farmers will remain consigned to poverty. Fairtrade must become an everyday part of the way millions of people think and shop."