Cengicaña celebrates 29 years of supporting the technological advance of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry

In 1992, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry made the decision to create a specialized center for sugar cane research. This is how the Guatemalan Center for Research and Training of Sugar Cane -Cengicaña- was born, which today celebrates 29 years of working to support the technological advance of the Sugar Industry.

Research on sugar addresses many topics which are grouped into five programs: varieties, integrated pest management, agronomy, industrial research, and training and transfer.

Climate change and technology

Sugar cane varieties

Cengicaña has developed cane varieties that contain more sugar and are more resistant to diseases. In addition, they are adaptable to the varied environmental conditions of the Guatemalan sugar cane zone. Cengicaña scientists have a National Collection made up of 3,085 varieties of cane, which is used for crosses and studies of the plant.

In the case of the Integrated Pest Management program, Cengicaña scientists combat sugarcane pests with biology, by looking for natural enemies of fungi and bacteria, and even owls and hawks.

Cengicaña scientists rely on technological tools for research on plant fertilization and nutrition, irrigation, precision agriculture, among others. In the area of precision agriculture, satellite images from the European Space Agency and NASA are used to monitor humidity and determine the maturity of the cane for harvest. In addition, in irrigation, the development of the app Cengiriego to optimize the use of irrigation water in sugar cane stands out.

Renewable energy production

Renewable energy from sugarcane bagasse

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry is a world benchmark for the generation of renewable energy from sugarcane bagasse, a residue of sugar production. Cengicaña’s industrial research program has helped the sugar mills increase their power generation.

This has been a key factor in ensuring that the Sugar Industry generates up to 35% of the Guatemala’s electricity demand. In addition, with the renewable energy produced by the sugar mills, up to 4 million tons of CO2 is prevented from reaching the environment.

On this day we congratulate the scientists of Cengicaña who with their work help to make the Guatemalan Sugar Industry a sustainable sector.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry works on restoration and conservation

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry is committed to a sustainable agriculture that is adaptable to climate change, with that objective supports the conservation and recovery of forests on riverbanks and upper parts of the basins, care of the soils that include green manure and conservation and recovery practices for the ecosystem such as fish farming, among others.

Forest recovery and conservation

In alliance with the Private Institute for Climate Change -ICC-, since 2011 the Guatemalan Sugar Industry has contributed to the recovery and conservation of forests by planting more than 5.9 million trees in the upper basin and riverbanks that flow into the South of Guatemala.

As part of this effort, 284 hectares of land have been reforested on the banks of the rivers of the South of the country alone, equivalent to 400 football fields, creating gallery forests and biological corridors.

These forests on the banks of rivers help to recharge water, to conserve soils by avoiding erosion and are also natural barriers that prevent floods, while they are home to species of flora and fauna.

In addition, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry has 2,507 hectares of natural forests, which are protected and cared for, and are part of the agro-landscape of the South of Guatemala and benefit the conservation of biological diversity.

Soil conservation

Since 2012, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry has worked hand in hand with the Guatemalan Center for Research and Training of Sugar Cane -Cengicaña- and the ICC in the development and implementation of practices for soil conservation.

One of these important practices is the plowing or the disposition of the land for the cultivation of sugarcane, so that it can better absorb water and nutrients, which preserves fertility and prevents erosion and flooding.

Legumes at Ingenio La Union

In addition, the Sugar Industry has implemented green manure through the sowing of legume plants that return nitrogen to the soil naturally. Sugarcane cultivation is renewed every 5 years to maintain its yield, so that, in the ideal areas, this renewal is used to rest and nourish the soil with the sowing of a legume that takes between 6 and 8 months in the field.

Legumes are the only group of plants that can capture nitrogen from the air and incorporate it into their body. When they are mixed with the soil, they contribute organic matter that improves the texture and structure of the soil. In addition, it promotes the proliferation of microorganisms that are beneficial for crops.

Crop rotation also helps in pest control because, by exchanging the cane for legumes, the life cycle of the insects that feed on the sugar cane is broken.

Release of native fish into rivers

Another program implemented by the refineries is to enrich the fauna in the rivers. This activity called “stocking fish” aims to increase the population of native species in the rivers of the South of Guatemala. The Sugar Industry, with the support of the ICC, has released around 50,000 fingerlings or small fish into the rivers.

Main destinations of Guatemalan Sugar

Main destinations of Guatemalan Sugar

Guatemalan Sugar was exported to 59 countries and regions on 5 continents in 2020; and it ranks as the sixth export product of the country according to data from the Guatemalan Central Bank (Banguat).

Guatemala exports 70% of its total sugar production, the remaining 30% is fortified with vitamin A and remains in the country to supply local consumption.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry produces natural sugar that comes from sugarcane plants grown on farms and has minimal processing.

In the top 3 destinations of Guatemalan sugar are countries of the American continent: Canada 256.4 million kilograms (256,351 MT), the United States 189 million kilograms (188,966 MT) and Chile 184.2 million kilograms.

The top 10 destinations of Guatemalan sugar

Main countries of each continent

The sugar produced in Guatemala was exported to all continents in 2020 according to Banguat.

sugar produced in Guatemala was exported to all continents

More than 50% of the sugar that leaves Guatemala is exported to countries on the American continent, in addition to Canada, the United States and Chile, Haiti 83.8 million kilograms (83,754 MT) and Peru 53.3 million kilograms (53,263 MT) complete the top 5.

In the case of the Asian continent, Taiwan is placed in the first position with 130 million kilograms of sugar (130,202 MT), South Korea in second place with 62.6 million kilograms (62,619 MT) and Malaysia in third place imported 46.8 million kilograms (46,830 MT).

Ivory Coast is the main country to which sugar is exported from Guatemala on the African continent with 70.1 million kilograms (70,068 MT), followed by Mauritania with 45 million kilograms (44,994 MT) and very close is Ghana 44.9 million kilograms (44,899 MT).

In Europe, Spain is the country that leads the import of Guatemalan sugar with 37 million kilograms (36,983 MT) followed by Portugal 19 million kilograms (18,882 MT) and Italy 15.3 million kilograms (15,309 MT).

And in Oceania, most of the sugar from Guatemala reaches New Zealand 60.5 million kilograms (60,500 MT) and only about 675 kilograms (0.68 TM) reaches Australia.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry has build internal roads to transport sugarcane

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry has build internal roads to transport sugarcane

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry has created an internal network of roads that benefits dozens of communities on the South of the country. Currently, more than 83% of the sugarcane is transported by internal roads.

Internal roads are those that go between the sugarcane fields and that communicate with the factories. These internal roads help to reduce the circulation of trucks loaded with sugarcane on national routes, while serving communities as an alternative road.

There are more than 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) of internal roads that the Guatemalan Sugar Industry has built and receive maintenance year after year, helping to significantly reduce the traffic of sugarcane on national highways.

Actions for responsible transport

Among the actions for a responsible transport is also the control and monitoring of the speed of the cane transport. The maximum speed in communities and school zones is 20 km/h (12 mph) and 40 km/h (25 mph) on internal roads.

There are also signalmen or flaggers in the sections where the sugarcane transport crosses the roads to avoid accidents.

Thanks to an agreement between the Guatemalan Sugar Industry and the Technical Training Institute -Intecap-, all pilots who transport sugarcane are trained and certified by said institution to guarantee that they have the skills to perform the task.

In addition, more and more women are joining the pilots’ workforce, which contributes to the inclusion of women in agricultural operations.

“Better families” a social program developed by the Guatemalan Sugar Industry that promotes food and nutritional security, will be implemented by local governments

"Better families" a social program developed by the Guatemalan Sugar Industry that promotes food and nutritional security, will be implemented by local governments

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry, through their Sugar Foundation – Fundazucar-, signed a cooperation agreement with municipal authorities of the sixth bigger department of Guatemala, called Escuintla for the transfer of the methodology of the Better Families program, which promotes food security and nutrition, as well as the empowerment of women as agents of change and catalyst for development.

"Better families" a social program developed by the Guatemalan Sugar Industry that promotes food and nutritional security, will be implemented by local governments

Better Families is a program certified by the Guatemalan Ministry of Education and promotes the training of women for behavior change from the individual, family and community level, recognizing in her a key agent to promote the improvement of health and nutritional status of the family, especially of the children.

The Better Families program has empowered and trained more than 532,000 women since its implementation in 1998. Due to the positive results, it was transferred to the Government of Honduras and was implemented twice as a public policy of the State in Guatemala. Likewise, 14 companies, foundations and international organizations have carried it out in different areas of the country with the aim of reducing chronic child malnutrition.

"Better families" a social program developed by the Guatemalan Sugar Industry that promotes food and nutritional security, will be implemented by local governments

The objective of this cooperation agreement is to replicate this social program that provides education to women, so they get to know practices for the proper selection, preparation, and consumption of food. As well as educating mothers in preventive health with sustainable actions to improve the conditions of their children, family, and community. Through this program, the implementation of inter-institutional coordination mechanisms for Food and Nutrition Security in the signatory municipalities is facilitated.

The agreement was signed by the mayors of four municipalities of the Department of Escuintla in the South of Guatemala, as well as by Luis Miguel Paiz, General Manager of the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association and Maria Silvia Pineda Molina, Executive Director of Fundazucar.

For the first time a Guatemalan variety of sugarcane leads the Guatemalan Sugar Industry

Sugarcane is researched by dedicated scientists at the Guatemalan Center for Research and Training of Sugar Cane -Cengicaña-; created with the aim of improving production and productivity of sugarcane and its byproducts.

Cengicaña published its Annual Report 2019-2020, in which the results of the investigations, projects and activities that were carried out in the last year are presented. One of the relevant results is that the varietal composition of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry is now led by a Guatemalan variety.

The CG02-163 variety is now the one with the most planted area in Guatemala, after 18 years of being released by Cengicaña, relegating the CP72-2086 variety from Florida, United States to second place. It is expected that over the years the varieties developed by Cengicaña will relegate foreign varieties in the varietal composition of national cane.

The annual report can be downloaded in Spanish on the Cengicaña website: https://cengicana.org/publicaciones# .

The Variety Program contributes to increasing the Guatemalan Sugar Industry productivity through the development of new varieties of sugarcane. These varieties are of high sugar yield per unit area, resistant to diseases and with agro-industrial characteristics and adequate adaptability to the different environmental conditions of the Guatemalan sugarcane zone.

In 2020, Fundazucar’s social programs focused on the fight against COVID-19

Last year was difficult due to the beginning of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, so the Guatemalan Sugar Industry, through its Sugar Foundation -Fundazucar-, has demonstrated its commitment to Guatemalans.

917 health workers received 3 personal protection kits

Since the beginning of the health emergency, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry focused on supporting the efforts of health workers who are on the front line in the fight against COVID-19 and in 2020, through Fundazucar, delivered 2,751 kits for the same number of health service workers on the South of Guatemala.

Ingenios apoyan a trabajadores de salud en la lucha contra COVID-19

The kits included 4 KN95 masks, 2 gowns, 3 pairs of gloves, and 1 face shield. 48 health services of 5 departments of the South of the country were also benefited with alcohol, antibacterial gel and disposable paper towels.

In addition, in coordination with Health Area Directorates, 499 workers from 65 health services were trained on issues of prevention and care against COVID-19.

540 public workers trained to prevent COVID-19 in markets and plazas

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry through their social arm, Fundazucar, joined with the Guatemalan Association of Exporters (AGEXPORT) to train 540 public workers from 25 municipalities with the purpose of supporting them in the implementation of measures to prevent COVID-19 in markets and plazas.

Also, Fundazucar delivered supplies for attention and prevention of COVID-19 to 25 municipalities on the South of Guatemala for visitors of markets and plazas. In total, 7,284 surgical masks and 693 gallons of glycerinated alcohol were donated during the year.

1,080 community leaders trained in social development with an emphasis on COVID-19 prevention

The Communities in Development program of the Sugar Foundation, was adapted to the context of the pandemic. To do this, Fundazucar trained 1,080 community leaders from 143 communities on the South of Guatemala in 7 topics of social development in prevention of COVID-19.

This program promotes community participation through the local Community Development Committees –COCODE- aimed at planning the social and economic development of their communities.

With the advice of Fundazucar, the communities prepared their annual planning, this time the main component was the fight against COVID-19, this as part of a long-term plan for Comprehensive Community Development.

Prevention campaign against COVID-19 on the South of Guatemala

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is still present in the country and to prevent further infections, Fundazucar has carried out a prevention campaign in municipalities on the South of Guatemala.

In 143 communities, posters were placed with the protocols recommended by the Ministry of Health and Social Assistance and with key prevention and mitigation messages were installed in 44 markets and squares of 25 municipalities on the South of Guatemala with the aim of supporting municipal authorities with strategies to minimize infections in their municipalities.

In addition, prevention messages were transmitted through vehicle-mounted loudspeaker in 26 municipalities of the South of Guatemala with the aim of recall community members to continue with the prevention and mitigation measures of COVID-19 and not relax in the face of the increase in cases while continuing with their daily activities.

Green fertilizer for environmental sustainability

Crotalaria flower

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry maintains its commitment to environmental sustainability, so through the Guatemalan Sugarcane Research and Training Center -Cengicaña-, have implemented the green fertilizer program.

Green fertilizer is part of the healthy soil program that some sugar mills have. This ecological measure consists of planting legumes that provide nitrogen to the soil reducing the use of commercial products.

In addition, it integrates crop rotation, intercropping, pest management, and soil conservation and nutrition in an environmentally friendly way.

Legumes and crop rotation

Legumes at Ingenio La Union
Photo courtesy of: Ingenio La Union

The cultivation of legumes as green fertilizer is a frequent practice in agriculture, in the case of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry crotalaria, a legume that produces a yellow flower, is used. Crotalaria is a genus of flowering plants in the legume family Fabaceae (subfamily Faboideae) commonly known as rattlepods.

Sugarcane cultivation is renewed every 5 years to maintain its yield and in the ideal areas, this renewal is used to nourish the soil with leguminous plants which grow and remain in the field between 6 and 8 months. Approximately 3 thousand hectares have been planted with crotalaria.

Legumes incorporate organic matter into the soil that provides nutrients, mainly nitrogen, one of the most important for plants and that will be used by subsequent crops.

Soil conservation and pest management

Legumes are the only group of plants that can capture nitrogen from the air and incorporate it into their organism. When they are mixed with the soil, they contribute organic matter that improves the texture and structure of the soil. In addition, it promotes the proliferation of microorganisms that are beneficial for crops.

Crop rotation also helps in pest control because, by exchanging the cane for legumes, the life cycle of the insects that feed on the sugar cane is broken.

All these good practices are promoted by Cengicaña with the aim of integrally using biological elements that are sustainable with the environment for the cultivation of sugar cane.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry continues its support for the mitigation of COVID-19 pandemic

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry supports health workers against pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic continues and the Guatemalan Sugar Industry through their Sugar Foundation -Fundazucar- maintains its support to health workers, and this week 917 personal protection kits were delivered in the South of the country, consisting of: 4 masks KN95, 2 gowns, 3 pairs of gloves and 1 face shield, for the same number of health workers.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry supports health workers against COVID-19

To support the health care of people who attend consultations, the sugar mills also donated 96 gallons of antibacterial gel soap, 96 gallons of alcohol and 65 boxes of disposable paper towels to 65 health services of 5 departments from the South of Guatemala.

Likewise, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry donated 442 gallons of alcohol to 26 municipalities.

Since the beginning of the health emergency, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry focused on supporting the efforts of health workers who are on the front line in the fight against COVID-19 and, in 2020, through Fundazucar, the sugar mills delivered 2,751 kits for health workers.

Antibacterial gel soap, disposable paper towels and alcohol were also donated to 48 health services on the South of the country.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry supports health workers against COVID-19

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry has planted 5.9 million trees to recover forests

Guatemalan Sugar Industry Reforestation Program

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry has planted 5.9 million trees from 2011 to date, as part of their reforestation plan in areas such as riverbanks and the upper part of the hydrographic basins, to improve the river’s water recharge capacity, and to transform the areas into biological corridors and also to contribute to the recovery and conservation of flora and fauna.

Guatemalan Sugar Industry Reforestation program

The Reforestation Program, implemented by the Sugar Mills through the Private Institute for Climate Change Research -ICC-, has among its priorities the recovery and conservation of the hydrographic basins of the rivers that flow into the Pacific Ocean, in the face of climate change.

The program, in addition to recovering wetlands, water sources and riverbanks, has a factor of community involvement and support, since all the trees come from over a hundred local nurseries managed by the communities.

Guatemalan Sugar Industry Reforestation Program

In 2020 the Guatemalan Sugar Industry planted more than 818,000 trees, and in each region, native species are planted for conservation, energy and timber purposes, among them the species, Matilisguate, Puntero, Volador, Cedar, Mahogany, Palo Blanco, Mother Cacao and Plumillo.

The forest coverage study of the National Institute of Forests (INAB, 2019) reveals that between 2010 and 2016 forest coverage increased in the departments of the south of Guatemala in 37,857 hectares, equivalent to more than 25,800 soccer fields.