Finding a Sweet Spot for Fair Trade Sugar Farmers Finding a Sweet Spot for Fair Trade Sugar Farmers

Finding a Sweet Spot for Fair Trade Sugar Farmers

June 8, 2011

The human predilection for sugar is one of our most essential characteristics. When we talk about truly enjoying life, it often boils down to eating dessert first. As a commodity, sugar is an important agricultural product. Because it is derived from both sugar cane and sugar beet, it can be produced in a range of climates, including parts of the U.S. If you purchase fair trade sugar, you are almost certainly buying crystals made from sugar cane grown in South America.


Companies that make everything from ice cream to iced tea are eager to align their brands with a more sustainable image and are helping to boost the demand for fair trade ingredients in other markets. In Mexico and Belize, organizations have been recruiting conventional sugar farmers to take up fair trade practices in order to meet the demand.

Recruitment generally involves engaging farmers in long term contracts that give them the reassurance that they’ll get a good price for their product over time, even in the event of market fluctuations. The additional benefits of health care, education and community improvement go a long way toward convincing farmers that this is a good alternative to the conventional way of running their operations. Typically, small farmers have no bargaining power or even access to market information that would allow them to negotiate according to industry fluctuations. The low prices farmers are able to secure during the short sugar cane harvesting season are often not enough for most to sustain their farms or even a livelihood for their families and communities.

But with the additional funds made from fair trade labeling, one Paraguayan sugar co-operative was able to repair a bridge and acquire heavier equipment including a tractor and trucks to improve production efficiency and boost worker productivity.


The majority of fair trade sugar comes to us as packaged sugar or as an ingredient in pre-made consumer foods like chocolate and candy, canned drinks, ice cream, and jams.

This post is in partnership with Ben & Jerry's

Image 1 (cc) from Flickr user Public Domain Photos

Image 2 (cc) from Flickr user kmacelwee

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Finding a Sweet Spot for Fair Trade Sugar Farmers