Sugar cane is the main source for the approximately 175 million tonnes of sugar produced each year (with sugar beets following in second place). Most sugar cane is grown by small-scale sugar farmers, who often face extreme poverty, in the tropical areas of least developed and developing countries.

Fairtrade focuses its efforts with these farmers, so they can receive a fair share of the annual $47 billion sugar export market. Their sugar cane is processed into Fairtrade sugar, which later arrives on supermarket shelves, either in its pure form or in composite products like chocolate, ice cream, cookies, or even rum.

What Fairtrade Means for Sugar Producers

Buying Fairtrade certified sugar ensures that small farmers receive a Fairtrade Premium in addition to the selling price to invest in local social, environmental and business development projects. These projects can provide much needed economic diversification or social services in areas that are overly dependent on this crop. Read more

General Sugar Facts

  • Sugar from sugar cane is often the most important source of income in low-income areas in African, Caribbean or Pacific countries. For example, sugar accounts for 40 percent of the value of exports of Belize, and the sugar industry is the second largest employer of labour in Jamaica.
  • Sugar cane is a tall, bamboo-like grass that grows to a height of up to 6 meters (20 feet) in mostly tropical countries. It can be harvested 12-18 months after planting and cut for up to seven years before replanting is needed.
  • Sugar cane is normally cut by hand and then delivered to sugar mills. There, the stems are crushed and ground, and the cane juice is extracted, which is then used to make raw sugar.
  • Bagasse, molasses and ethanol are by-products from sugar production from sugar cane. They can be used in a wide range of contexts, for example, to make plastic products, to produce biofuels or to generate electricity. This electricity is often used to power the sugar mills in which the sugar cane stems are processed.

Where to Buy

Fairtrade sugar is available in many markets. If you can’t find it, talk to your local grocer or get in touch with your local Fairtrade organization by checking out Fairtrade Near You or select one of the countries in blue on the map below.

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