MEPs agree to act for African, Caribbean & Pacific sugar cane farmers

Fairtrade sugar farmer

Fairtrade's Sugar Crash campaign gains cross-party MEP support

MEPs have received more than 71,000 emails from their constituents, asking them to take urgent action on behalf of sugar cane farmers in developing countries[1].

Following the removal of a quota on European sugar beet production in 2017, small-scale sugar cane farmers in African, Caribbean and Pacific (APC) and Least Developed Countries (LDC) - including countries such as Guyana, Jamaica, and some of the world's poorest countries such as Malawi - will struggle to compete with sugar beet farmers in Europe, who receive subsidies from the EU[2]

Research commissioned by the Department for International Development (DFID) in 2012 said the move could push at least 200,000 people in developing countries into poverty by 2020. But a slump in the sugar price over the last three years[3] means that farmers in developing countries are already struggling to sell their sugar at a competitive price and risk losing their livelihoods much sooner than anticipated.

“Small-scale farmers in some of the world’s poorest countries, who have been supplying us with sugar for generations and have few other options for earning a living, will now have to compete for business with subsidised European farmers. That’s not a level playing field, and it’s contradictory to the EC’s commitment to global development[4],” said Michael Gidney, Chief Executive at the Fairtrade Foundation.

Members of the British public are asking their MEPs to urgently raise the issue with the European Commission, to ensure sugar cane farming communities in developing countries receive the support they need to adapt or diversify. The EU has already provided some funding to help with the transition, but reports indicate that it has not all been directed towards the needs of sugar cane farming communities and according to the UK’s Department for Food and Rural Affairs, the benefits are unlikely to be felt in time[5].

“The British public are not asking the EC to reverse its decision to remove the cap on EU sugar production– that ship has sailed - but they are asking MEPs to use their influence to prevent this reform from having a devastating effect on developing countries. By bringing together governments, businesses and civil society groups to find and fund solutions that will support sugar cane farmers through this difficult transition period, the EC could prevent hundreds of thousands of people being pushed into poverty”, Gidney added.

In response to Fairtrade’s campaign, MEPs from across the political spectrum have agreed to raise the matter in Europe. Linda McAvan, Labour MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, and Chair of the European Parliament’s International Development Committee, said: “I fully agree that sugar cane farmers, many of whom are Fairtrade, need targeted and effective support. With my fellow MEPs, I will seek to clarify how existing funding can be used more effectively and how the overall EU development budget can help ensure that sugar cane farmers can continue their livelihoods. Additionally, we should ensure that the farmers have a seat at the table in the decisions that affect them”.

The Fairtrade Foundation is urging British shoppers to stand by sugar cane farmers, by choosing Fairtrade or cane sugar, or asking their supermarket to stock it.

Fairtrade supports more than 62,000 sugar cane farmers in developing countries to increase their productivity, improve their businesses and invest in a wide range of projects that benefit their community, such as educational grants, health clinics, and access to safe drinking water.

Sainsbury’s, the Co-operative and Waitrose offer own-label Fairtrade sugars, and Tate & Lyle Sugars supplies a wide range of Fairtrade certified sugars to supermarkets, restaurants and food manufacturers. Cadbury Dairy Milk, Kit Kat, Maltesers, Green & Black’s, Divine chocolate and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream also source Fairtrade sugar.  

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For more information on the crisis facing sugar cane farmers, please refer to the Fairtrade Foundation’s Sugar Crash report, or contact Nicola Frame, Media and PR Manager on 020 7440 8597 or


Notes to Editors

The Fairtrade Foundation is an independent certification body which licenses the use of the FAIRTRADE Mark on products which meet international Fairtrade standards. This independent consumer label appears on products to show that disadvantaged producers are getting a better deal from trade. Today, more than 1.5 million people – farmers and workers – across more than 74 developing countries benefit from the international Fairtrade system.

Over 5,000 products have been licensed to carry the FAIRTRADE Mark in the UK including coffee, tea, herbal teas, chocolate, cocoa, sugar, bananas, grapes, pineapples, mangoes, avocados, apples, pears, plums, grapefruit, lemons, oranges, satsumas, clementines, mandarins, lychees, dried fruit, juices, smoothies, biscuits, cakes & snacks, honey, jams & preserves, chutney, rice, quinoa, herbs & spices, seeds, nuts, wines, ales, rum, confectionery, muesli, cereal bars, ice-cream, flowers, sports balls, sugar body scrub and cotton products including clothing, homeware, cotton wool, olive oil, gold, silver and platinum.

Awareness of the FAIRTRADE Mark continues to be high in 2014, at a level of 78%. 

[1] 71,003 emails at 1 April.

[2] In 2014, basic farm payments were worth €251.39 per hectare, which equates to approximately €22.85 per tonne of sugar. In addition, some EU states are proposing additional Voluntary Coupled Support payments for sugar beet, to the sum of €181m.


[4] 2015 has been declared the ‘European Year of Development’ and world leaders will commit to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015.

[5] Implementation of CAP reform in England, Evidence Paper, Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, October 2013