30 Nov 2023

Global Fairtrade sugar industry summit commits to sustainable Fairtrade solutions

Yaima Hernandez Cuenco - UBPC Rodrigo Cooperative
CLAC - Carlos Gasparotto / Teresa Iaropoli

A global sugar industry summit convened by Fairtrade end of 2023 and attended by major players in the sugar industry has committed to sourcing more sustainable Fairtrade sugar wherever possible.

But the summit, which saw participation by 25 sugar companies - including Tate & Lyle, Südzucker Group, Czarnikow, Halba CH, Italia Zuccheri, LAICA Costa Rica, Illovo, MSS, and ED&F Man - also heard about major challenges sourcing and supplying sustainable levels of Fairtrade sugar.

Fairtrade Africa, CLAC (the Fairtrade Producer Network for Latin America and the Caribbean), Fairtrade Italy and Fairtrade Germany participated in person, with the Fairtrade Foundation (UK) and Max Havelaar France facilitating virtual workgroups online. Two parallel work groups were tasked with identifying the challenges in Fairtrade production, exports and trading, and understanding what brands and retailers require from Fairtrade in order for it to remain relevant.

Declining global cane and beet sugar production, driven by climate change and a ban on exports due to severe weather events, have led to a shortage of Fairtrade white refined and unrefined brown sugar.

Discussions focused on sourcing and supplying sustainable levels of Fairtrade sugar, supply and production challenges, market innovations and enhancing Fairtrade's relevance in an ever-changing market landscape. Participants were also informed that two exceptions to the Fairtrade Cane Sugar Standard and mass balance requirements of the Trader Standard, were approved on 27 November 2023.

"We are proud of the collaborative spirit demonstrated at the summit," said Monika Berresheim, Faitrrade’s Senior Advisor for Sugar. "These discussions pave the way for a sustainable future for Fairtrade sugar, ensuring that the Fairtrade system, producers, sugar companies, traders, retailers, brands and consumers are all aligned in promoting ethical practices.”

The importance of Human Rights and Environmental Due Diligence (HREDD), better labour practices and tackling climate change on Fairtrade sugar production were a major talking point. In an effort to halt declining production, and following a series of independent carbon & water footprint studies, Fairtrade and supply chains have started to implement projects to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including solar powered irrigation systems, application of biofertiliser, improving soil health and drainage.

“I was able to find out first-hand about the opportunities and challenges involved in sourcing Fairtrade sugar and establish valuable contacts,” said Marco Marquart, Strategic Buyer Sugar & Ingredients at Halba, Switzerland. “It was also very interesting for me to find out what programmes the producers are implementing with the Premium and additional Fairtrade funds. Even though sugar is often criticised as a food/raw material, we at Halba can make a valuable contribution in the countries of origin by paying the Fairtrade Premiums.”

Another industry participant, Director of Sugar Ethics at Tate & Lyle Sugars Julia Clark, added “We are grateful to Fairtrade for bringing industry stakeholders together to discuss some of the key issues and highlight the positive impact of Fairtrade.”

The meeting culminated with sugar industry stakeholders committing to Fairtrade sugar and the solutions discussed - and to finish, an inspiring video from Fairtrade sugar producers in Eswatini, showcasing the positive impact of Fairtrade initiatives.

To learn more, read about our Fairtrade’s climate action, and Fairtrade’s better labour practices in the sugar sector.