Sugar is one of Fairtrade’s sweetest and most versatile products: ice cream from Ben and Jerry’s contains Fairtrade sugar, and bags of Fairtrade sugar are readily available on supermarket shelves. But Fairtrade sugar also lands in sweets, jams, and even rum.

Global sugar production is dominated by Brazil, India, the EU, China, Thailand and the US, which produce around 65 percent of the world’s sugar. Fairtrade focuses its efforts with sugar cane farmers in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, including some of the world’s least developed countries (LDC). Currently 80 percent of Fairtrade certified sugar is produced in these countries, and we aim to support farmers there as they increase their share of the $47 billion global sugar export trade.

Fairtrade Sugar Facts

  • There are just over 62,000 sugar farmers organized into 100 Fairtrade small producer organizations.
  • Belize and Fiji currently produce the most Fairtrade sugar cane, but there are also sugar farmers in Brazil, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Guyana, India, Malawi, Mauritius, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, and Zambia.
  • Eighty percent of Fairtrade sugar is produced by African, Caribbean or Pacific countries or LDCs, where sugar is often the most important source of income.
  • Half of the 9.8 million euros in Fairtrade Premium funds that Fairtrade sugar farmers earned in 2013 was invested by the producers in business and organizational development or production and processing.
  • Fairtrade farmers grow organic and non-organic sugar cane, which is processed into white granulated, refined, and unrefined cane sugars such as demerara, soft light brown, soft dark brown, muscovado, and caster sugar. Sugar cane is also processed into whole raw cane sugars like Mascobado, Panela and by-products like molasses.

Fairtrade Impact for Sugar Farmers

Fairtrade has seen strong growth in the sugar sector, increasing volume of sales reported as Fairtrade by 24 percent from 2012 to 2013. Various governments and exporters see Fairtrade as the alternative for their smallholder sugar sector.

But there are still more opportunities for Fairtrade sugar farmers to increase their sales. A number of large corporations have made commitments to use sustainably-certified sugar as part of their total sourcing plan. Fairtrade is working with these companies to provide sugar farmers with new markets for their crops.

The Fairtrade Standards are a driver for positive change for many farmers and the industry in general. For example, since working with Fairtrade, various countries have banned the use of Paraguat, an herbicide that – while safe for consumers in the end product – is dangerous for the farmers and workers who apply it.

The European Union has historically been a major market for Fairtrade sugar, but changing trade regulations within the bloc mean Fairtrade sugar farmers will face much stiffer competition. To help the farmers adapt to the new regulations, Fairtrade is helping the farmers establish themselves as reliable suppliers for trading partners outside of the EU.

Impact Reports

Fairtrade and Sugar Commodity Briefing, 2013

Impact Assessment study of Sugar Producers in Malawi, 2010

Challenges for Sugar

ACP and LDC countries – which contribute 80 percent of all Fairtrade sugar production – face an uphill battle when it comes to selling their sugar: quotas for sugar imports into the EU and guaranteed prices for ADP nations and LDCs are being phased out, meaning small producers in these countries are up against massive producing nations such as Brazil and India. Making matters worse, price volatility in sugar makes long-term planning a difficult endeavor.


To help soften the blow of the changing trade regulations, the European Union has implemented measures to help ACP/LDC countries to transition, though little of this has trickled down to the farmer level. As a consequence of the EU reform, some countries, such as Jamaica, Mauritius, Swaziland, and Malawi, have encouraged Fairtrade certification for small sugar farmers.


General Sugar Facts

  • Sugar cane is a tall, bamboo-like grass that grows to a height of up to 6m (20ft) in mostly tropical countries.

  • Sugar cane is normally cut by hand and then delivered to sugar mills. There, the stems are crushed and ground, and cane juice is extracted. This is used to make raw sugar.

  • Most global sugar production is from sugar cane. About 20 percent of the world’s sugar comes from sugar beet, which is produced in temperate areas including the European Union.

  • World consumption of sugar has grown at an average annual rate of 2.7 percent over the past 50 years, driven by rising incomes and populations in developing countries.

  • A by-product of sugar cane production called ‘bagasse’ can be used as biofuel. It is often used to power sugar mills, or to generate electricity which is sold back to national power grids.

Recent Fairtrade News on Sugar


Joint statement concerning workers’ rights in Fiji

21 septembre 2012

Fairtrade International, ITUC, IUF and TUC have released a joint statement today on the status of workers' rights in Fiji. Click here to read the statement (PDF) For more information, please contact: Reykia Fick, Media...

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Commitment to Sugar Sweetens Life for Farmers and Communities

05 décembre 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...

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Buying and selling Fairtrade Sugar

Fairtrade products are sold in over 120 countries. For more information on Fairtrade near you, select your country on the map below or visit Fairtrade Near You. If you’re interested in selling Fairtrade cocoa in your country, see our information about selling Fairtrade.

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