Commitment to Sugar Sweetens Life for Farmers and Communities

05 December 2011

Azúcar, Zucker, sucre, sugar. Whichever way you say it, this tiny everyday ingredient plays a big role in many people’s lives, from the yo-yo dieting consumer right back to the sugar cane farmers and their families and it’s one of Fairtrade International’s (FLO) key products.

On 16 November over 20 important sugar industry players came together to discuss challenges, and share experiences and strategies for growth at FLO’s global sugar growth strategy meeting, held in Bonn. FLO representatives and labeling initiatives met with representatives from  Rapunzel, ED&F Man Sugar, Traidcraft, Alce Nero, Illovo/Mitrag, Silver Spoon, Oxfam Belgium, Pronatec, Napier Brown, CTM Italy and Fairtrade’s biggest Premium payer, Tate & Lyle. The meeting helped both sides gain a better understanding of each other to further build the strategic partnership.

“Especially some of the newer traders said they gained more in-depth knowledge about Fairtrade specific issues. It was the first meeting for labeling initiatives with sugar traders and they were impressed by the commitment shown to Fairtrade sugar and producers. It was great to get the experts together around one table and to hear from them in such a huge exchange,” said Monika Berresheim-Kleinke, FLO’s Global Product Manager for Sugar.

A key agenda topic was the latest EU Sugar Reform and the negative impacts it is bound to have on sugar producers. Participants discussed resulting opportunities and how to operate in the best interest of Fairtrade producers.

The construction of the first producer-owned sugar mill in Paraguay is a key example of how Fairtrade International’s strategic involvement can lead to tangible improvements for sugar farmers. On 5 December, a foundation stone ceremony for the Industrial Organic Sugar Plant owned by the Manduvira Cooperative, was held in Paraguay. The cooperative includes 800 organic cane sugar producers and exports sugar to 17 countries.

This first-of-its-kind mill, to be up and running in 2013, was partly financed by investment of the Fairtrade Premium. By helping producer organizations take greater control of the value chain and add more value to their final product, Fairtrade helps ensure that benefits remain in the community where they belong.  The mill will enable a significant improvement in the lives of Fairtrade sugar farmers, workers and their communities in the area.

“At the moment, producers rent a mill around 100km away so they’re paying high transportation and rental costs. This new producer-owned mill means as well as processing more cane sugar, farmers and their communities will benefit from more job opportunities and stable incomes,” said Monika.

Part of the reason Manduvira has been so successful is because of Fairtrade International’s ‘all that can be, should be’ rule for composite products. Composite products made from more than one ingredient, such as chocolate or ice cream, must use Fairtrade products for all ingredients that can sourced as Fairtrade. This means that for every chocolate bar sold, it’s not just cocoa farmers that benefit, but sugar producers, vanilla farmers and others. Read more about Fairtrade’s composite product policy here.

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