Sugar and Sweeteners


Do you know where your sugar comes from? Geographically

sugarBrazil accounts for over 20% of global sugar exports and is the largest producer of cane sugar in the world. Production is increasing due to usage of ethanol-based fuels for vehicles. In 2009, the United States imported $783 million of raw cane sugar. Mexico and the Dominican Republic are its largest suppliers. Sugar is sourced from sugarcane (in tropical regions) and sugar beet (in temperate regions).

Supply Chain – The Status Quo

In 2000, the world price of sugar dropped because the European Union (E.U.) dumped cheap sugar below cost in developing countries. As a result of supply constraints (mostly due to weather) coupled with increasing demand for sugar for biofuels, world prices are steadily rising to about $0.30 cents per pound.

Working Conditions – The Status Quo

In Brazil for example, sugarcane workers earn wages just above the minimum wage; however, it is insufficient to maintain a reasonable living standard. Likewise, manual cane harvesting is very difficult in regions where crops are planted in an irregular fashion—most of which is carried out by seasonal workers—where deaths from exhaustion are reported in extreme cases. Reports indicate that in the Dominican Republic, the majority of sugarcane production is carried out by Haitian migrant workers, all of who are living in desperate conditions.

How Fair Trade helps

  • Producers are organized in cooperatives (or associations) which they govern democratically.
  • The Fair Trade price and the Fair Trade Premium are paid directly to producer cooperatives that have their own sugar mills.
  • Environmental standards restrict the use of agrochemicals and encourage sustainability.
  • Pre-harvest lines of credit are given to the cooperatives if requested, of up to 60% of the purchase price.
  • A Fair Trade Premium of between $0.60 to $0.80 cents is paid directly to the cooperative or association and is used for social and economic investments such as education, health services, processing equipment, and loans to members.

Other Sweeteners:


agaveAgave comes in a variety of colors and flavors, depending on the plant, filtering process, and if it has an added flavor. Agave acts as a replacement for sugar and other sweeteners in recipes and on the table top. The Fair Trade system has allowed the producers of Agave and Molasses to enjoy better working conditions, stable prices, and premiums that benefit the community.


mollassesMolasses is a natural result of the first crystallization of sucrose from cane juice. It is rich in vitamins and minerals and the Fair Trade product comes unsulfured. For more information on the source of molasses, please view our page on sugar.

The Fair Trade system has allowed the producers of Molasses to enjoy better working conditions, stable prices, and premiums that benefit the community.

Information provided by Fairtrade International and Wholesome Sweetners.

Where can I learn more?



Movies and Videos:

Meet the farmer/producer: