|SUGAR IS EVERYWHERE! AVAILABLE IN VARIOUS FORMS, IT PROVIDES A WIDE VARIETY OF FLAVOURS AND TEXTURES FOR RECIPES AND PRODUCTS OF ALL KINDS.|
Sugar is produced and consumed around the world. For many countries, it is one of the most important sources of national income.
Sugarcane was discovered in the South Pacific islands, approximately 20,000 years ago. Raw sugar was first extracted from sugar cane in 500 B.C. in India. The cultivation of sugarcane was mainly dominated by the British Empire until the abolition of slavery, in the United Kingdom, in the nineteenth century. Since then, the technology for sugar production has gradually spread around the world.
Unfortunately, for the millions of farmers and plantation labourers working to cultivate sugarcane, there are significant obstacles to earning a decent living. Sugar prices have plummeted to a quarter of their real value 25 years ago. The increased use of alternatives such as sweeteners or corn syrup has also decreased the demand for sugar.
Sugar is also produced by wealthy, powerful countries in the North who subsidize and protect their sugar industries. As a result, it becomes even more difficult for farmers in small, resource-producing countries to make a living.
Photo: Eric St. Pierre
Subsidies and competition
The international sugar market is characterized by low and volatile prices. While the price of sugar fluctuates constantly, there is a clear downward trend. Sugar prices have plummeted 76% in real terms between 1980 and 2000.
Any change in international sugar supply or demand can cause a sharp jump in sugar prices. In the 1980s, a switch by Coca-Cola from sugar to a corn base plunged the sugar industry into a long and deep crisis.
Farmers in developing countries must compete with wealthy countries with greater financial resources to dedicate to sugar production. These countries often have greater political power to subsidize and promote their sugar industries. The subsidies granted by OECD countries to support domestic production amount to a whopping 50% of the total value of world trade in sugar.
The export of sugar is of vital economic importance for many developing countries. The millions of farmers and plantation workers cultivating sugarcane face major obstacles to earning a living in decent conditions. These include low prices, a volatile world market, dealing with plantation and mill owners, and a high vulnerability to natural disasters.
Photo: Eric St. Pierre
Fair Trade Sugar
It is grown by 23 organizations from Belize, Ecuador, Paraguay, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, the Republic of Mauritius, Malawi, Philippines, and Zambia - representing more than 10,000 farmers and their families.
Farmers who produce Fairtrade certified sugar are guaranteed a minimum price which covers the costs of sustainable production, as well as a social premium to invest in social and economic initiatives in their communities.
The minimum guaranteed price floor and premium is paid directly to producer co-operatives, many of whom own their own sugar mills. In a few countries where private sugar mills export all sugar, conventional prices are paid and then the Fair Trade premium is paid by FLO-registered importers directly to sugar producer cooperatives.
Fairtrade standards for sugar growers ensure that:
- Producers are organized in co-operatives (or associations) which they govern democratically.
- The Fairtrade price and the Fairtrade Premium are paid directly to producer cooperatives that have their own sugar mills.
- Environmental standards restrict the use of agrochemicals and encourage sustainability.
- Pre-harvest lines of credit are given to the cooperatives if requested, of up to 60% of the purchase price.
- A Fairtrade Premium is paid directly to the co-operative or association and is used for social and economic investments such as education, health services, processing equipment, and loans to members.
How does sugarcane end up in my jellybean?
Sugar is derived from both cane and beets. Sugar beets come from more temperate climates, while sugarcane is mainly grown in the countries of the tropics and subtropics. Brazil is the largest producer of sugarcane.
Sugarcane is a long green grass that can reach 2.5 to 4.5 meters in height. Sugar is produced from both sugarcane and beets. Over 75% of world production of sugar from sugar cane. The sweet juice that is inside the stem is extracted, refined and boiled to form sugar.
Sugar comes in different forms: white, gold, brown, granulated, loaf sugar, liquid, syrup. It is usually processed in the refinery for export and sold as raw sugar or white sugar. Sugar is now an essential ingredient in the industrial production of many foods and ends up in products such as ice cream, chocolate, sweets, and pastries.
Do Canadians have a sweet tooth?
In the past year, nearly half of Canada's sugar refining plants have closed. There are now plants in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and BC.
Today, 90% of Canada's refined sugar is imported from developing countries. In 2002, Canada imported more than CAD$310million of sugar.
Fairtrade certified sugar has been sold in Canada since 2001.
Did you know?
Several studies support a direct relationship between economic development, living standards, eating habits... and the consumption of sugar! Nowadays, people consume an average of 39 kilograms of sugar per year in Canada and 17 kg per year in developing countries.