The Guatemalan Sugar Industry creates first mechanical respirator to help patients affected by COVID-19

On July 30th, in a virtual press conference, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry presented the prototype of the first mechanical respirator designed and manufactured in Central America, which has the capacity to assume up to 100% of respiration or provide partial assistance to a patient with lung deficiency.

Faced with the health emergency caused by the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry, in addition to contributing with donations to the authorities, has promoted and supported projects focused on finding solutions to face this critical situation.

The Guatemalan Sugar Association – ASAZGUA – also announced the donation of 35 mechanical respirators to the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance, which will be financed by the Guatemalan sugar mills to save the lives of COVID-19 patients and when the pandemic ends, will be for use of future patients. By august those respirators will be at the Guatemalan hospitals.

Design and development process

The impact of COVID-19 in Guatemala, as in other countries, has caused a shortage of supplies and of medical equipment for hospital care. For this reason, the project for the development of the first mechanical respirator created in Guatemala was born, led by Engineer Edwin Delgado, Automation Superintendent of La Union Sugar Mill, who has 25 years working in the company.

Delgado, along with other experts, decided to take on the challenge of creating respirators to save Guatemalan lives. In March, with the approval and support of the managers of La Union Sugar Mill, the project began, which consisted on the design, development and creation of the first mechanical respirator for intensive care produced in Guatemala, to be called: Joaquin 1.0.

For this task, a group of professionals from La Union and other sugar mills met and together created pieces, developed software, and developed electronic systems. Physicians and pulmonologists also participated in this process, who contributed their experience and knowledge in this type of equipment.

Meet Joaquin 1.0

Joaquin 1.0 is a sophisticated respirator with digital displays that will bring oxygen to the lungs of people who are fighting for their lives and has the ability to take up to 100% of their breath or provide partial assistance to the patient.

This respirator is more efficient than the use of a mask or other devices, by exerting enough pressure to keep the lungs open, preventing their collapse, and thus improving the passage of oxygen to the blood. People affected by acute respiratory problems and now with COVID-19 need such devices for hours or days, and in some cases, their need can extend to weeks or even months.

These devices are shortage worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why the Joaquin 1.0 respirator will be vital to keep patients who cannot breathe on their own due to the serious damage the virus causes to the lungs alive.

The respirator has a computerized control system that is in charge of controlling all aspects of breathing, in addition, it has a screen to present the graphics to the doctors that allows them to determine the best treatment that the patient requires. Many of the internal systems are redundant, backed by critical measurements, which ensure the life of the patient.

Also, the system has self-diagnosis with which it self-evaluates guaranteeing its operation. It also has an alarm system whose parameters are established by the doctor, and the respirator is responsible for monitoring that the patient does not leave these parameters.

A mechanical respirator that was born
in the heart of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry

Joaquin 1.0 was born in the heart of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry, in the workshops of La Union Sugar Mill. The Guatemalan Sugar Association – ASAZGUA-, from the beginning has believed in this project, for this reason it financed the purchase of 89 valves made in Germany for the construction of the first respirators, which are the engine for the operation of said equipment.

Álvaro Ruiz, General Manager of the La Union Sugar Mill and Vice President of the Guatemalan Sugar Association -ASAZGUA- stated: “We are committed to Guatemala and therefore we do not hesitate to support this initiative. We have given Eng. Delgado the support, time, human resources, equipment and supplies to facilitate the process. We are very proud of what we are achieving.”

The respirator has already been tested with certified lungs, it is in the third phase, controlled trials with patients are expected next week. The joint effort of sugar mills, the Technical Institute for Training and Productivity –Intecap- and the company Fogel will be used in the production of these equipment.

“For me it is a personal satisfaction because the objective is being achieved, after the effort of several months of hard work in research and development. I am grateful to all the people who have supported with good disposition and in a disinterested way, concerned about the common good, giving life expectancy”, said Delgado. Regarding the name of the fan, the expert said: “It has been named in this way in honor and memory of my little angel Joaquincito“.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry
maintains its commitment to Guatemala

The president of the Guatemalan Sugar Association -ASAZGUA-, Alfredo Vila, announced the donation of 35 mechanical respirators to the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance, which will be financed by the Guatemalan sugar mills to save the lives of COVID-19 patients and when the pandemic ends, they will remain for use by future patients.

“We support this effort because we believe in the capacity of our people and because it is part of our commitment to the well-being of Guatemalan families, to contribute to the efforts of helping people in these difficult times”, Vila said.

During the emergency by COVID-19, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry has made a series of contributions to the authorities, focused on confronting the situation, among them the donation of Q7.64 million for the equipment of the Campaign Hospital at the South of Guatemala, the usufruct of the land was also granted for the installation of said hospital. Likewise, more than 110 thousand pounds of sugar were donated for the “Saldremos Adelante” kit, which was delivered to 200 thousand families in vulnerable situations.

Press contact:


Sugar mills donate US$1 million to equip hospital to face the Covid-19 pandemic in the south of Guatemala


In the face of the health emergency caused by the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic, Guatemalan sugar mills show solidarity and donated 1 million USD to equip the temporary hospital to be installed on the South  of Guatemala.

These resources will be used to acquire medical equipment that will enable the temporary Hospital to be installed on the South Coast in order to be prepared for the medical care of people in the face of the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Contributing to the Government’s efforts to serve the population in these difficult times is part of our commitment as a sector with the well-being of Guatemalan families. Likewise, we continue to produce sugar, under strict security measures, so that it is not lacking of this essential product in homes and energy to continue lighting Guatemala”, said Vila.

Asazgua made a call on all Guatemalans to unite and take care of each other following the instructions issued by the Government to deal with this global emergency. This is a critical moment and requires of all the world to be united to overcome it.

The Guatemalan Sugar Sector joins the UN efforts to promote global water and energy sustainable practices

Guatemala, through the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association – Asazgua, was one of the founding members of the United Nations Global Network: Sustainable Water and Energy Practices”, along with other public organizations and academia, which seeks to be a platform to share knowledge and share experience on possible solutions around water and energy, leaded by the UN.

The initiative started on March and seeks to promote compliance of Sustainable Development Goals 6 and 7 (water and energy respectively), during an initial period of four years.

“Through this platform, we will not only be able to share better practices, but also propose solutions based on technical knowledge and experience. Both of which, in this case, are broadened tremendously due to the rich participation in this group of: Governments, Multilateral Organizations, other UN Agencies, Academia and the Private Sector”, said Luis Miguel Paiz, General Manager of Asazgua.

Capacity building, dialogue and cooperation will be the way to address water and energy stakes to achieve sustainable development. Through this platform, barriers and opportunities will be identified, to therefore propel key actions, such as sharing knowledge and better practices, as well as the implementation of specific and innovative measures.

Other activities include an inventory of priority needs, already-existing efforts from the members, workshops to develop projects, policies, financing, innovation, technology and monitoring.

Countries from Africa, Arab States, Asia, Europe and Latin America will share their practices and promote knowledge and technology transfer through an information-sharing network.

“We firmly believe that Water and Energy are essential for Development and that by working together, we can achieve greater results”, added Luis Miguel Paiz. Asazgua will share knowledge with the support of the Guatemalan Institute for Research on Climate Change (ICC).

What the Guatemalan Sugar Mills do to save water?

Eleven sugar mills produce sugar in Guatemala, and all of them have implemented measures to reduce the use of water according to their capacity; enabling them to be more efficient and environmentally sustainable.

As part of its commitment to make a rational use of water, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry works along with communities, authorities and other water-users to coordinate the use of water in the main rivers of the South Coast, the area in which all of them operate. “We understand that water is a common good, and everyone is allowed to make a rational use of it” explained Luis Miguel Paiz, General Manager of the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association – ASAZGUA-.

“As sugar producers, we are aware that the impact of climate change and other climate events, such as El Niño Southern Oscillation, affect the availability of water all around the world, therefore affecting big cities, communities and agricultural producers”, he added.


Water-saving practices:

  • Sugarcane is a low-water-requiring crop:                                 

About 20% of the sugarcane area is not irrigated, whereas the other 88% is mainly rain-fed and a small amount is irrigated. This means that each land-plot is being irrigated 2 to 3 times a month through mobile irrigation systems.

  • Sugarcane that uses even less water

Scientists at the Guatemalan Center for Research and Training on Sugarcane (referred to by its Spanish acronym Cengicaña) have developed 21 new and improved sugarcane varieties by crossbreeding, which need less water and contain more sugar.  

  • Irrigation technologies

Sugar mills use high-technology programs that shows them exactly how much water each sugarcane land-plot needs, preventing the waste of water. Also, irrigation systems that imitate rainfall have been adopted.

  • Rational use of water

Enterprises, authorities and communities all the way from Santa Rosa to Retalhuleu, have organized themselves to make a rational use of water, so the river flow reaches the sea.

  • Dry wash of sugarcane

By using a vibration system, some sugar mills avoid using water to wash sugarcane.

  • Water outlets

For thousands of years, human beings have used water to carry out agricultural activities. Nowadays in Guatemala, water from the rivers is used by communities, municipalities and agricultural producers. Sugar mills get the water from the rivers by using controlled water outlets without interrupting the river course.

  • New forests 

Sugar mills are endowed with forest areas covering 12 thousand hectares. They additionally have planted over 4 million trees since 2011 for the adequate management of watersheds.

  • Reuse of water

Water used by the sugar mills for the production of sugar is treated to be reused during the factory process, therefore saving water.

  • Wastewater treatment

At the end of the sugar production process, residue waters are treated and later used to irrigate. Through this process, sugarcane producers comply with the Ministry of Environment and National Resources’ Regulation 236-2006, that legislates discharge and reutilization of waste waters.

  • Water from Sugarcane

Around 70% of sugarcane is water, and the Sugar Mills make use of it during the production process.


Water is an essential element to achieve sustainable development. The Guatemalan Sugar Industry is completely aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, especially with the SDG 6, which looks to ensure water and sanitation for all.

“Adapting to climate variations is one of the greatest challenges we must face, therefore we are investing in technology and looking to adopt new sugarcane cultivation and sugar production practices that require less water. Every sugar mill is implementing actions according to its capacities”, explained Luis Miguel Paiz.


The Guatemalan Sugar Mills have cooling towers to lower the temperature of the water after it´s used at the factory and in that way it can be used again in the process of making sugar.


By using a vibration system, some sugar mills avoid using water to wash sugarcane.


Irrigation systems that imitate rainfall have been adopted to save water.


Guatemala starts Harvest Season 2018-2019

Thousands of workers began their jobs at the Guatemalan sugar mills.

Guatemala November 6, 2018. Today, the sugar mills Magdalena and Madre Tierra began operation, marking the beginning of the 2018-2019 sugarcane harvest season in Guatemala; known locally as “Zafra” the sugar production that will last six months.

For the people living at the South of Guatemala, the Zafra is synonymous with economic reactivation since every year the Guatemalan Sugar Industry generates more than 80 thousand direct and 410 thousand indirect jobs, in addition to the hiring of thousands of suppliers of products and services, who also generate more jobs.

The sugar mill are members of the Guatemalan Sugar Association -Asazgua- and they operate under a strict labor policy and distribute every year the equivalent to US$400 million in wages, in addition to providing their employees with additional health, entertainment and food services. The Guatemalan Sugar Sector generates 5 percent of all formal jobs in the country.

There are 11 sugar mills operating in the process of making sugar in Guatemala, they are in the south region of the country in the departments of Escuintla, Santa Rosa, Suchitepéquez and Retalhuleu. In adition to producing sugar they generate renewable electric energy, which during the harvest covers up to 32% of the national demand. They also produce alcohol that is exported mainly to the United States and Europe.

During the 2017-2018 harvest season, 2 million 752 thousand 575 metric tons of sugar were produced, of which 70 percent was exported to more than 70 countries in the world. This exports represent 9 percent of the country’s total exports, according to figures from the Guatemalan Central Bank. This year the projection is that the production will remain similar.

Guatemala is the second largest exporter of sugar in Latin America and the fourth in the world; Guatemalan Sugar also has the third place in productivity worldwide with respect to obtaining sugar per hectare cultivated.




Running for a healthy life Guatemala´s 31st Sugar Race

On October 21st, more than three thousand runners attended the Carrera del Azúcar (Sugar Race). It took place at Escuintla, a department situated at the south part of Guatemala, area where the sugar mills operate.

The 31st annual Sugar Race was organized by the Sugar Technicians Association of Guatemala (Atagua), and the Guatemalan Sugar Association (Asazgua).

This race is a tradition, in which every year sugar mills, guild workers, families, friends and passionate runners are part of this competition. The Sugar Race is a local party, which is an opening for the harvest season, and it also promotes a healthy active life.

Thousands of runners crowded the main roads of Escuintla, where hundreds of people were cheering them up. This race consisted on running 10.5 kilometers, and during this trajectory, drinks where proportionated to the runners, and also medical assistance was hired in case they needed.

The first one to cross the finish line was Alberto González Méndez, completing the journey in 32 minutes and 06 seconds. Behind him was Merlin Chalí, who was the first woman to complete the journey, which took her 37 minutes and 04 seconds. At the end of the race some games took place and prices were handed to the assistances.

The winners of the distinct categories were rewarded with cash, sugar and recognition trophies.

The Guatemalan Sugar Agroindustry considers exercise a primary element for a healthy lifestyle, and that’s why they encourage people by making this type of physical events since 1987.



Guatemalan sugar industry promotes Road Culture program in children

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry, together with the Direction of Road Safety and Protection -Provial- of the Government of Guatemala and the multinational company 3M, inaugurated on October 4th a Program to increase the Road Culture in children from schools of the South of Guatemala. The program consists of an interactive workshop in which children learn by playing.

The Program is part of the actions of Corporate Social Responsibility of the Guatemalan Sugar sector and will be implemented in more than 40 schools during 2018 and 2019. The instruction will be given to children in preschool, elementary, middle school and High School.

For the children instruction, a “Road Safety Education Park” will be used, in which the children will learn in a practical way about the signaling of public roads, regulations and responsibilities of drivers, pedestrians and authorities. Approximately 70 children will participate in each training.

“Road safety education is part of building a responsible citizenship, since it promotes knowledge and compliance with the rules and regulations; for us is important that children learn about this subject since they are constantly exposed as pedestrians, as passengers and future potential drivers “, said Luis Miguel Paiz, Asazgua’s General Manager during the inauguration of the program.

This program was born as a joint effort of the Sugar Association of Guatemala –Asazgua-, Provial and 3M. Asazgua carried out the construction of the Road Education Park and the donation of 10 bicycles, while the 3M was responsible for the development of traffic signals. Provial staff is in charge of training children in schools

More than 1,400 women are trained in leadership and food security in Guatemala

The Sugar Foundation -Fundazucar- which is the social arm of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry, through its Better Families Program, trained and graduated 1,450 women from 46 communities of the South of Guatemala.

The program began 15 months ago, when the technicians of the Foundation came to the small communities to offer the training and explain that one of the benefits would be the improvement in their quality of life and food security.

After accepting the program, they initiated the training in which the women learned about nutrition and food security; as well as safety in food handling.

They also acquired the skills to measure and weigh their children to monitor their nutrition. At the 46 communities that were part of the program, they weighted, measured and monitored 907 children.

The technicians made an inspection to determine the foods available in the communities and then explained in the community their nutrients and characteristics; as well as the ideal way to combine them so that families could have a balanced diet that would keep them away from poor nutrition.

In rural families in Guatemala, men traditionally go to work and women stay at home and take care of children, prepare food and manage the home, so training them is essential to ensure an adequate alimentation; since in those areas are malnutrition rates.

The training also had a component in which women’s self-esteem is reinforced and they are encouraged to take a proactive attitude in the development of their community. With this leadership, women have increased their involvement in local development, some have taken part as local authorities and have a direct impact on the development of their communities.

Fundazúcar, as the social arm of the sugar mills of Guatemala, started the program “Better Families” in 1997 and since then has trained more than 500,000 women and have managed to achieve behavioral change at the individual, family and community levels, with a positive impact and reducing chronic child malnutrition.

The objectives of the program are: to develop in the women of the communities, practices for the adequate selection, preparation and consumption of food. Educate the mothers in preventive health with sustainable actions to improve the condition of mother-child, family and community and strengthen community organization to ensure processes of self-management and sustainability of food security.

The Foundation also carries out other education, health and municipal development programs which are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.


Sugar Mills attend victims from the Fuego Volcano Eruption

The Sugar mills from the Guatemala Sugar Industry joined efforts to help the victims of the eruption from the Fuego Volcano that took place on Sunday, June 3.

Guatemala is in grief for the recent tragedy, which has affected more than 1.7 million people, from which 3 thousand 500 are living in temporary shelters.

As part of the commitment of the Guatemala Sugar Industry with the country, and in solidarity with the victims, the sugar mills have made available heavy machinery, medical doctors and industrial kitchens to support Guatemalan authorities in addressing the emergency.

For 36 days; from June 4 to July 9, food was prepared at the industrial kitchens of the Guatemalan Sugar Mills, brought and served hot to families sheltered in eight shelters established by the authorities.

From the beginning of the emergency, sugar mills in Guatemala prepared and delivered 135 thousand 585 hot food dishes, including breakfast, lunch and dinner.