Reform of the European sugar market is endangering the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of farmers in developing countries and could push 200,000 people into poverty by 2020, the Fairtrade Foundation has said.
It has implored manufacturers, retailers and consumers to switch to Fairtrade ingredients, ahead of a planned commitment by world leaders to the United Nation’s sustainable development goals later this year.
It follows a decision from the European Union (EU) to remove a cap on EU sugar beet production, which the Fairtrade Foundation has claimed will weaken the ability of small-scale sugar cane farmers in less economically developed countries to compete with European producers.
Fairtrade Foundation chief executive Michael Gidney said: “We cannot stand by and watch as thousands of sugar cane farmers in developing countries, who have supplied the UK for generations – and in some cases, been encouraged with EU funds to grow more sugar – lose their livelihoods. This is not a levelling of the playing field, because European beet sugar farmers get a subsidy from the EU. “We need a new approach that puts farmers first. We’re calling on the EU to bring together government, business and civil society, to find and fund solutions that will support sugar cane farmers to stay in the game, find new markets or diversify. Crucially, they must involve sugar farmers in the process – and as a quarter of the EU’s sugar imports from these countries comes to the UK, [the UK Department for International Development (DFID)] must play a lead role.”
The foundation added that sugar cane production formed a crucial part of smaller economies such as Jamaica, where it claimed 8% of the population was directly or indirectly supported by the crop. Paulette Richards, secretary of the Trelawney and St James Cane Growers Association in the northwest of the country, said: “Sugar is the backbone of our economy and the source of our income. If we hadn’t the sugar industry… children would not be able to go to school effectively, shops would close, bakeries would close – it would affect every individual.”
In October last year, we reported that a fall in the global price of sugar was endangering the same small-scale producers, whose number is based on research from DFID.
Leading confectionery brands such as Cadbury Dairy Milk, Green & Black’s and Divine source their sugar on Fairtrade terms, the foundation added.
But consumers could still do more to support sugar producers across the world. Gidney said: “We’re asking them to stand by the sugar cane farmers that have been failed by politics, by choosing Fairtrade sugar or asking their supermarket to stock it. There are people’s lives in our shopping baskets, and we don’t believe people would want to buy sugar that costs a penny or two less per bag, if they knew that the cost was hundreds of thousands of people being pushed into poverty.”
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