International sales of Fairtrade products increased 12% in 2011 as consumers continued to pay a premium for goods marked with the ethical certification despite the downturn.

Sales reached EUR4.92bn (US$6.05bn) last year, according to data from Fairtrade International, a body that sets certification standards in markets around the world.

In the UK, the biggest market for Fairtrade, sales matched the global growth rate of 12%, hitting EUR1.5bn.

Sales in the US, the second-largest market for Fairtrade, were up 10% to EUR1.03bn. Fairtrade International said the US data was “projected” from figures it had for the period from 2008 to 2010. Fairtrade USA resigned from Fairtrade International last September. The US association said at the time there were “different perspectives” on how to “empower” workers and producers to “improve their lives through better terms of trade”.

Markets in Europe hit by the crisis in the eurozone still saw sales of Fairtrade products on the up. Sales in Italy increased 16% and in Spain rose 39%.

With many Fairtrade products either being shipped from or based on ingredients from emerging markets, the jump in sales in South Africa stood out. In 2011, South Africans purchased EUR7.3m of Fairtrade products, up from EUR1.9m a year before.