A sugar farmer cuts sugar cane

Sugar farmers

Around 80 per cent of the world’s sugar is derived from sugar cane, grown by millions of small-scale farmers and workers.

Sugar CaneSugar is one of the most valuable agricultural commodities. In 2013 its global export trade was worth $42bn, up from $10bn in 2000. For many countries, sugar is one of the most important sources of national income. For example, sugar accounts for 70 per cent of the value of Cuba’s exports and 40 per cent of exports from Belize.

For those who grow it, sugar can be a difficult crop to make a profitable living from. Inflexible supply chains mean that sugar cane farmers depend on sugar mills to buy their cane and process it into cane sugar with mills also deciding how much farmers are paid. Exporting cane sugar is particularly difficult for many African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries as markets in the EU and US are protected in favour of their own sugar beet growers and cane commercial farms. ACP sugar farmers have few options to diversify and depend almost entirely on cane sales for their incomes. 

How does Fairtrade make things better?

Fairtrade certification in sugar cane focuses on small-scale producers and there are 77 producer organisations representing more than 36,700 sugar cane farmers in 18 countries participating in Fairtrade. The main economic provision of Fairtrade Standards in sugar is the Fairtrade Premium of $60 per tonne of sugar ($80 per tonne for certified organic sugar) in addition to the negotiated price. In Malawi, investment of the Premium has improved food security for cane farmers while in Belize, investments in farming improvements have increased productivity by 21 per cent.  

Read why smallholder sugar farmers need help and what Fairtrade is doing to support them

Where to buy Fairtrade sugar

Fairtrade sugar is stocked by many major retailers and supermarkets – and is used in some chocolate bars as well as by restaurants and ice cream makers. Next time you bake a cake or sprinkle sugar on your pancakes, make it Fairtrade and make life a little sweeter for the farmers who produced it as well.

Find out where to buy Fairtrade Sugar

Our sugar farmers

BSCFA, Belize

Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) is located in the ‘sugar belt’ area of northern Belize.

Henry Matenda – KCGA, Malawi

Henry Matenda owns a 2.5 hectare plot of land on which he grows sugar cane as part of Kasinthula Cane Growers’ Association (KCGA).

Manduvirá Co-op Paraguay

Manduvirá Co-operative is located in the remote district of Arroyos y Esteros, around 70km northeast of Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay.

Masauko Khembo – KCG, Malawi

Masauko is General Manager of Kasinthula Cane Growers Limited, a company owned by KCG farmers through the Shire Valley Cane Growers Trust.