The sweet taste of sugar may hide the unsavoury reality of a highly competitive industry that leaves small-scale farmers vulnerable to market pressures.
The work in the Cooperative has improved my quality of life. The Cooperative offers me many benefits. I can borrow equipment for planting and harvesting or to analyse our harvest and soil in the laboratory. We don’t use chemicals – only organic plant protection.Alba Zaxuho, a member of Manduvira
All About Sugar
Global sugar markets fluctuate wildly, though prices have fallen consistently over the last decade. Industrial-scale plantations dominate the market, and government subsidies in some countries restrict trade. When market prices drop, small-scale farmers in the Global South are marginalized and unable to earn a living income from their harvests – leading sugar to be called the ‘hunger crop’ in many countries.
In addition to unpredictable market prices, the effects of climate change have also devastated many sugar farmers, with unpredictable weather threatening their yields throughout the Global South.
Fairtrade works with small-scale sugar cane farmers to expand their access to global markets and find new opportunities for sales. The Fairtrade Sourced Ingredient (FSI) model, developed by Fairtrade International in 2014, has expanded the use of Fairtrade certified sugar in new product areas that might not have been possible before, ultimately leading to higher sales for farmers.
Due to market distortions caused by subsidies, and supply chain complexities, there is no Fairtrade Minimum Price for sugar. However, a high Fairtrade Premium allows cane farmers to invest in projects like sustainable production, crop diversification, and climate change resilience.
Paraguay is the leading producer of Fairtrade sugar, and the Manduvira Cooperative is a shining example of what can be achieved through ethical production. In 2014 they built and opened the world’s first producer-owned Fairtrade sugar mill, which now exports certified sugar to countries all over the Global North, including Canada.