Sugar from Guatemala sweetened 43 countries in 2021. Last year, sugar and its byproducts represented 4% of the country’s total exports, equivalent to 520 million dollars in foreign currency for the country.
The main countries to which Guatemalan Sugar was exported in 2021 were the United States, Canada, South Korea, Taiwan, Haiti, Libya, Jamaica, Italy, Ghana, and Malaysia.
By continent, the main export destinations for Guatemalan sugar are America with 50%, Africa with 15%, Asia with 22%, Europe with 11% and Oceania with 2%.
The Guatemalan Sugar Industry takes advantage of their residues, which are transformed to be reused. This is the case of alcohol or ethanol, which is produced with molasses and 55 million gallons are produced each year, most of which are exported.
Guatemalan ethanol is used for cosmetics, pharmaceutical products, liquor production and as a fuel. The five main countries where this product was exported in 2021 were: The Netherlands, the United States and its territories, Mexico, Switzerland, and El Salvador.
In addition, during the sugar production process, other types of honey or molasses are also exported and according to data from the Bank of Guatemala in 2021, 72.5% went to the United States; 13.9% to the United Kingdom; 5.5% to Guyana; 5.2% to the Netherlands and 3% to Canada.
The Sugar Producers of the Central American Isthmus Association (AICA) and the sugar organizations of the six countries in the region launched the campaign “Yo te cuido!” (I take care of you!) with the aim of cont raising awareness about the importance of preventing child labor in the sector.
“In Guatemala we promote the Better Families program to eradicate Child Labor and promote actions from the family so that children attend school and have a life full of joy and learning,” said Maria Silvia Pineda, director of the Guatemalan Sugar Foundation –Fundazucar-.
Through workshops, talks, coordination meetings, contests and multiple information materials, the campaign aims to reach, among others, workers, sugarcane producers, as well as members of the communities in the areas of influence of the sugar sector throughout the Central American region.
The campaign will provide information about child labor, the negative causes and effects, the legal consequences, also with data and promoting a paradigm based on respect and care for childhood and adolescence.
According to Juan Carlos Fernandez, Executive Director of AICA, “the sugar sector has implemented multiple and successful programs and initiatives against child labor throughout Central America for several years, with which it has managed to change the reality of the sector. This campaign advances in the consolidation of the results that have been obtained”.
This 2022 child labor prevention campaign is promoted by the Sugar Producers of the Central American Isthmus Association (AICA) and its member organizations: the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association (Asazgua), the Sugar Association of El Salvador, the Association of Sugar Producers of Honduras (APAH), the National Committee of Sugar Producers of Nicaragua (CNPA), the Industrial Agricultural League of Sugar Cane of Costa Rica (LAICA) and the Association of Sugar and Alcohol of Panama (AZUCALPA)
In addition, it has the technical support of the International Labor Organization (ILO), as well as the collaboration of the Coca-Cola Company and the Central American Integration Network for Corporate Social Responsibility (INTEGRARSE).
We invite you to register and participate in the event “Local and subnational governments and the application of the GFB 2030 through transformative actions” organized by the framework convention on biological diversity, which aims to discuss and exchange experiences for the development of sustainable projects in the present and for the future.
The Guatemalan Sugar Industry together with the Private Institute for Climate Change Research -ICC- and local partners carried out the program for the recovery and conservation of forests for the eleventh consecutive year, with the planting of 900,000 trees in 400 hectares of land with species such as: cedar, mahogany, Ear Pod Tree, Picconia excelsa, pine, cypress, cocoa, among others.
“With this year’s reforestation plan, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry will have contributed to the planting of 7.7 million trees since the beginning of the Program in 2011. As part of our commitment to the environment, during these 11 years we have joined efforts with communities, local authorities, and organizations, for the conservation and recovery of forests on riverbanks and upper parts of basins”, commented Alfredo Vila, President of the Association of Sugar Producers of Guatemala -Asazgua-.
The Reforestation Plan began with the planting of 300 trees on a farm Called Belem, jurisdiction of Masagua, Escuintla, located at 370 kilometers (230 miles) in the south of Guatemala City. With this activity, the reforestation season officially begins, and will last until August.
It will be carried out in 10 departments of the country: Santa Rosa, Chimaltenango, Escuintla, Suchitepéquez, Retalhuleu, Jalapa, Sololá, Sacatepéquez, Jutiapa and Quetzaltenango.
The production of the trees was in more than 50 nurseries installed in 30 municipalities in 10 departments of the country, “these nurseries are municipal, regional, business owned and community owned,” explained Dr. Alex Guerra, director of the ICC. “The ICC provides seeds, supplies and technical advice in conjunction with INAB,” he added. These is with the financing provided by the Guatemalan Sugar Industry.
More than 310 hectares of land have been reforested by the Guatemalan Sugar Industry initiative on the banks of the rivers on the South of Guatemala alone, equivalent to more than 430 soccer fields, creating gallery forests and biological corridor.
These forests on the banks of rivers help water recharge, soil conservation by preventing erosion and are also natural barriers that prevent flooding and are also home to species of plants and animals.
This month in New York was held the event “The role of private industry in support of the SDGs in the areas of water, energy, biodiversity and health”, organized by the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association -Asazgua- and the Organization of United Nations.
The activity was carried out in a hybrid way (face-to-face and virtual) in two sessions on industry and biodiversity; and sustainable development and health. It was attended by 11 exhibitors and with the participation of more than 180 people from countries such as Brazil, Burundi, Guatemala, Spain, the United States, among others.
It was attended by Oliver Hillel from the Secretariat of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, who highlighted that the active work of economic leaders around the world is needed to reverse the loss of biodiversity.
Efforts of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry to achieve the SDGs
During his speeches, Alfredo Vila, president of the Latin American Sugar Producers Association -UNALA- and the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association -Asazgua- explained that the Guatemalan Sugar Industry has implemented systems for the efficient use of water, renewable energy, and care of the soil, and has been recognized as an international benchmark in good practices and recognized due to its work into achieving the SDGs.
Luis Miguel Paiz, CEO of Asazgua, spoke about the contributions of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals -SDGs- and during his speech he referred to the development programs promoted by the Guatemalan Sugar Industry, such as the empowerment of women, social investment, and the fortification of sugar with Vitamin “A” to prevent childhood blindness, among others.
Similarly, Alex Guerra, CEO of the Private Institute for Climate Change Research -ICC- spoke about the work carried out by the Guatemalan Sugar Industry together with the UNDP, communities and local governments in forest restoration and protection. “The integration of efforts from different sectors is key to achieving real and impactful results,” highlighted Guerra.
Another of the lecturers was the mayor of the municipality of Escuintla, Mr. Abraham Rivera, who presented the joint work with the Sugar Foundation -Fundazucar-, an example of how the Sugar Industry and the local government work together for the benefit of the people. “One of the most important alliances we have had has been with Fundazucar for the transfer and implementation of the Better Families program, a program that is generating changes in the communities and is helping us fight malnutrition,” Rivera commented.
UN Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions Network
In 2018, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs created the Global Network for Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions, which is chaired by Asazgua. This global network aims to meet the sustainable development goals -ODS- number 6 (clean water and sanitation) and number 7 (ensure access to sustainable, reliable, and modern energy for all).
Asazgua is considered a key partner to contribute to the fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda since it is an active member, with experiences and practical cases that are considered as an example of private sector participation, necessary for sustainable development.
With a long-term vision, Cengicaña was founded in 1992 by the member sugar mills of the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association -Asazgua-, as a research center that generates knowledge and technology transfer for the agricultural and industrial equipment of the associated mills.
Cengicaña supports the sustainable and profitable development of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry through five programs:
Technologies and methodologies have also been developed for the Integrated Management of Pests that attack sugarcane cultivation, such as the Salivosa Bug, Borer and Rodents, among others.
Through the agronomy program, the use of technologies for plant fertilization and nutrition, irrigation and precision agriculture is developed and exploited using data, maps and satellite images to analyze soil types, water balance, agroecological zones for strategic location of varieties, fertility and productivity analysis, as well as pest mapping.
The training and transfer program has had more than 5,500 training events with which it has reached more than 137,000 employees of the Sugar Industry. In addition, it has developed events to share the technology developed with the sugar mills through symposiums, specialized committees and technical events with field trips and participation in congresses.
With this 30-year work, Cengicaña has received important recognitions such as the Ulises Rojas Order, the Sugar Order and recognitions from universities, among others.
We congratulate Cengicaña for its 30th anniversary and the leaders who had the vision to anticipate the challenges to seek the competitiveness and sustainability of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry.
The Private Institute for Climate Change Research -ICC- has conducted studies that count 248 distinct species of birds that inhabit forests within the cane fields of the South of Guatemala, area where the sugarcane grows. Those forests along with the roads, forests, rivers, plants, and animal life are called the “agro landscape.”
In addition, ICC researchers have identified 78 species of migratory birds, which find refuge in the agricultural landscape of sugar cane. These species travel each year from the northern hemisphere of the continent to the south.
Migratory birds travel between September and November of each year and return to North America between March and May. When they pass through Guatemala, the wooded areas of the cane fields provide them with food and shelter, thus they manage to accumulate energy to fly and continue their journey.
Plants and animal life of the Sugar Industry forests
In addition to birds, in the agro landscapes of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry, inhabit 17 families of reptiles and amphibians have also been recorded in these ecosystems; They live on land and water. Likewise, 219 species of trees have been identified, which provide food and shelter to the animal life of the South of Guatemala.
ThThe Guatemalan Sugar Industry and the Private Institute for Climate Change Research -ICC-have 900,000 trees in 63 nurseries as part of the Reforestation Plan. In the nurseries, 26 species of trees are grown, such as cedar, mahogany, eucalyptus, pine, among others.
The nurseries are in 39 municipalities in the departments of Escuintla, Sacatepequez, Santa Rosa, Chimaltenango, Jutiapa, Retalhuleu, San Marcos, Quetzaltenango, Solola and Suchitepequez.
Since 2011, the Sugar Industry has implemented the National Reforestation Plan for the recovery of forests on the South of Guatemala. In 2021, with the support of the ICC, the figure of 6.8 million trees planted was reached thanks to this program. It is expected to reach 7.7 million trees planted with the 2022 reforestation.
Importance of nurseries
The nurseries in which the trees are prepared for the National Reforestation Plan are managed by municipalities, institutions, companies, and communities. These inter-institutional alliances help to promote forest culture in the communities where they are implemented.
ICC supports with seeds and supplies necessary for cultivation, as well as technical advice in conjunction with the National Institute of Forests -INAB-. The villagers provide the space for the nursery, the labor for all the daily tasks, and the land.
The Guatemala Sugar Industry has relied on research and science to be more environmentally sustainable for the planting and harvesting of sugarcane. An example of this is the development and implementation of practices for the conservation and sustainable use of soil.
During the production of sugar, significant amounts of organic waste are generated as byproducts that have a high agronomic value, including filter mud, ash, and vinasse. Cengicaña scientists discovered that applying these byproducts to the soil improves its physical, chemical, and biological properties.
For example, filter mud is a residue from the manufacture of sugar and provides phosphorus, calcium, and nitrogen, among others. It is estimated that each harvest produces more than 750,000 tons of this residue that is used to nourish fields.
Vinasse is a liquid residue from the distillation of alcohol and is mainly made up of water, organic matter and minerals that benefit the soil. Just as ash, mixed with filter mud, is beneficial for acidic soils, which favors greater availability of nutrients for plants and generally improves soil health.
Green fertilizer program
Just as they use organic fertilizers, the Sugar Industry also uses green fertilizers, an ecological measure of planting legume plants that provide the soil with nitrogen for nutrition in an ecological and environmentally friendly way.
When legumes are mixed with the soil, they provide organic matter that improves the texture and structure of the soil and promotes the development of microorganisms that are beneficial to crops.
All these good practices are promoted by Cengicaña with the aim of comprehensively using biological and organic elements that are sustainable with the environment for the cultivation of sugarcane.
According to data from the International Sugar Organization, Guatemala is the second largest sugar exporter in Latin America and the fifth worldwide. In addition, it is the third largest sugar producer in Latin America and the Caribbean.
It has the capacity to store 350,000 metric tons of sugar in bulk and 58,000 metric tons of sugar in bags, this added to its loading speed, compared to other countries gives Guatemala a competitive advantage.
What makes it more impressive is its current shipping rate of 2,000 metric tons of bulk sugar per hour. Before Expogranel existed, a 35 thousand metric ton ship was loaded in 30 days and today it is done in an average of 18 hours. And it has a sugar shipping capacity of more than 3,500 tons in bags per day.