The Guatemalan Sugar Industry takes part in the UN 2023 Water conference.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry, represented by the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association, took part in the United Nations 2023 Water Conference at the side event: Water and Energy for Sustainable Development: Integrated solutions supporting regional cooperation, climate resilience and biodiversity.

The objective of the event was to provide an opportunity for the exchange and dissemination of knowledge and experiences on integrated water and energy solutions in different regions of the world, for which representatives from public and private organizations from Spain, Finland, Guatemala, the Netherlands, Mexico, Ethiopia, Brazil, and Paraguay, shared their experiences.

The event supports the objectives of the Global Network on Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions, which Asazgua is part of, and brought together multi-stakeholders to discuss and showcase existing initiatives on effective solutions addressing the water-energy nexus. Luis Miguel Paiz, CEO, and Andrea Bolaños, Sustainability Manager, and director of Fundazucar participated on behalf of Asazgua.

During her presentation, Andrea Bolaños explained how sugar production in Guatemala is committed to meeting the objectives and goals of the 2030 Agenda, as well as other global objectives, such as Climate Change, Biodiversity and Human Rights. Bolaños pointed out: “We are more than sugar; we are energy for sustainable development”. Asazgua shared her experience regarding sustainable water management and renewable energy generation.

Andrea Bolaños, Sustainability Manager, and director of Fundazucar

“Since the year 2000 we have developed 7 policies that provide the sugar industry with business and human rights frameworks,” added Bolaños. Asazgua recently presented the contributions of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry to the SDGs promoted by the UN.

Bolaños added that the Sugar Industry produces renewable electricity for the operation of sugar mills and covers at least 30% of the electricity demanded by the country (Guatemala), all this using 100% of the residual biomass that allows the production of green energy.

The Sustainability Manager of Asazgua shared the main practices that the Sugar Industry in Guatemala has implemented to make sustainable use of water in production processes, ranging from reuse to the development and implementation of technology to optimize and reduce water use. Likewise, she shared the actions that are carried out to promote access to water and sanitation in the communities of the south of the country.

The event was held within the framework of the United Nations Water Conference 2023 that takes place in New York and that brings together representatives of different sectors in the world with the purpose of establishing a common agenda of immediate actions to accelerate the implementation and impact of solutions to address global water challenges.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry supports the conservation of gallery forests

Guatemala Sugar Industry Forest
Guatemala Sugar Industry Forest

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry has supported the conservation and creation of gallery forests and biological corridors as part of reforestation efforts. Only on the banks of the rivers of the south of the country, more than 310 hectares of land have been reforested, equivalent to more than 430 soccer fields.

Gallery forests are a type of forest found in lowland areas with groundwater close to the surface. The presence of trees and shrubs creates a strip of shade and humidity that protects biodiversity and improves water quality. These forests develop along rivers and streams and are important for biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation.

These forests on the banks of rivers help water recharge and soil conservation by preventing erosion and are also natural barriers that prevent flooding, while harboring species of flora and fauna.

Efforts to reforest river basins

Since 2011, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry has contributed to the planting of 7.7 million trees since the beginning of its National Reforestation Program. As part of the commitment to the environment, during these 12 years, efforts have been integrated with communities, local authorities and organizations, which have allowed us to contribute to the conservation and recovery of forests on riverbanks and upper parts of the basin.

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

Do you know about the nutrients applied to the sugarcane?

Use of drones for aerial applications of nutrients

During its growth, the sugar cane needs nutrients that help it retain more sugar in its stems. The Guatemalan Sugar Industry uses nutrients that comply with the recommendations and regulations established by national and international organizations and authorities.

The Sugar Industry has regulations and protocols that guarantee that the applications meet their objective without causing negative impacts on the environment and on residents of the areas near the crops.

Prior to the application of nutrients, planning is carried out in which all safety measures are taken to guarantee that the nutrients reach the sugar cane.

The elements that are considered are the amount of nutrients applied according to the area to be harvested, the delimitation of security strips and, in cases close to communities, the leaders and neighbors are informed of the work that the sugar mill will carry out.

Delimitation of security strips

Technology helps in precision

Aerial applications are carried out and controlled by experts from the sugar mills, who rely on new technologies to ensure that the nutrients reach the sugar cane directly and safely, such as the use of Global Positioning System (GPS), hydrosensitive cards, helicopters with automatic sprinklers and the use of drones.

The advantage of the drone is the efficiency in the application of the product, which reduces the possibility of it being deviated by the wind. Work has also been done to improve the level of precision, drone capacity, application volume and aircraft with greater flight independence to cover more areas.

The applications are made with precision techniques to avoid impacts on other crops and communities.

Sustainable use of water in Guatemalan sugarcane cultivation and sugar production

Riego de caña - Azúcar de Guatemala

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry has implemented new technologies and processes, both in sugarcane cultivation and in industrial activities, to reduce its water consumption.

Since 1992, with the creation of The Guatemalan Sugarcane Research and Training Center -Cengicaña-, research has been committed to the development of sustainable cultivation and production practices. For this reason, the Sugar Industry has implemented more efficient irrigation systems that use less water and apply only the amount that the plant needs.

Likewise, the sugar mills have invested in systems for the reuse of water in sugar factories. The water used in the manufacturing process is taken to a cooling system, since it comes out at a high temperature, where, after being cooled, it returns to the factory, through a recirculation system, to be used again.

Reutilización de agua - Azúcar de Guatemala

Water footprint of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry

According to the study carried out by the Private Institute for Climate Change -ICC- each ton of sugarcane produced in Guatemala uses 45% less water than the rest of the sugarcane-producing countries.

During the 2020-2021 harvest, 76% of the water used to produce sugarcane in Guatemala was provided by rainwater. These data were presented by the Private Institute for Climate Change Research -ICC- in the report Water Footprint in Sugar Production in Guatemala.

During this period, the availability of rainwater for sugarcane cultivation increased by 3% compared to the previous harvest. That is, the weather conditions allowed more rainwater to be available for cultivation.

During the 2020-2021 harvest, irrigation water used for sugarcane production represented only 19% of the water footprint. This is 2% less compared to the previous harvest.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry is committed to the sustainable use of water and energy

Alliance for Water

Since 2018, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry through the Sugar Producers Association -Asazgua- has actively participated in the Global Network of Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs -DESA-. In this space, international organizations and the private sector are joined to share and explore best practices in relation to the sustainable use of water and energy.

The importance of these issues is recognized by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes the Sustainable Development Goals 6, which addresses the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all; and the ODS 7, which demands access to reliable, modern and affordable sustainable energy.

The Global Network of Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions works with the vision of a world in which there is equitable and sustainable use and management of water and energy resources for all, in support of human well -being, the integrity of ecosystems and a solid and inclusive economy under the umbrella of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry actively participates in the UN Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions Network

Asazgua is considered a key member to contribute to the fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda since it is an active member, with experience and practical cases that are considered as an example of private sector participation, necessary for sustainable development.

Long-term collaboration for water and energy solutions

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry takes part in the UN meeting on water, energy, biodiversity, and health

Since its creation, the Global Network for Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions has worked to mobilize and expand multisectoral action towards sustainable development. For this reason, a series of activities and publications have been carried out to create spaces for dialogue to share best practices and experiences on water-energy interrelationships and their contributions to other SDGs.

Asazgua promised to satisfy at least 30% of Guatemala’s electricity demand during the three dry months of the year through renewable energy, increase ethanol production for transportation by 20%, and develop a new method of bioenergy from biological waste.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry is committed to the preservation of mangroves and wetlands

Restoration of mangroves and wetlands sugar cane farms

As part of the commitment to the conservation of biodiversity, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry has assumed the responsibility of preserving and protecting mangroves and wetlands located on farms where sugar cane is grown.

There are actions that have been carried out directly by the Sugar Industry individually or collectively, and indirectly through the Climate Change Institute -ICC- with financing for actions in the conservation and restoration of mangroves and other forests along the basins.

With the technical support of the ICC and the German Technical Cooperation -GIZ-, the guidelines for the preservation and restoration of biological diversity in the production of Sugar in Guatemala were prepared, which is a guide that guides the actions of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry.

Presentation of the guidelines for the conservation and restoration of biological diversity

Guidelines related to mangroves and wetlands include:

  • In the expansion of new cultivation areas, modification of the water system within the farms that could put the permanence of the mangrove forest and any type of wetland at risk should be avoided. Protection will be provided for the freshwater bodies that feed this ecosystem.
  • Do not change the use of land in the flood-prone areas and natural wetlands that are found within the farms and their protection is promoted.
  • New cultivation areas will not be expanded within protected areas or wetlands recognized by the RAMSAR convention.
Bird seeing in forest within cane fields in Guatemala

The biological wealth that has refuge and lives in the sugar cane agro-landscape is a treasure that must be cared for, because the work of protecting biological biodiversity is a commitment to which we are all called.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry implements sustainable practices to maintain soil health

Conservación de suelos - Azúcar de Guatemala

Since 2014, every December 5th, World Soil Day is celebrated, a date proposed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations -FAO-. This year it focuses on “Soils, origin of food” with the aim of raising awareness about the importance of soils for food production, while calling for sustainable management that guarantees soil health.

According to the book “Cultivation of sugarcane in Guatemala” by Cengicaña, plants, like sugarcane, require 16 elements called essential elements for their growth and development. Carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen come from water and air; the other 13 nutrients are minerals that are obtained from the soil or are added as fertilizers.

Practices focused on soil conservation

Sustainable soil management has been key to sugar production in Guatemala. The Sugar Industry carries out a set of practices focused on soil and water conservation, including use of green manures, seedbeds in strips, design of areas with soil and water conservation structures (trenches, contour lines, and infiltration wells) and planting of the first third.

Estudio de escorrentía

This set of activities focused on soil health and water conservation, contributes to:

  • Decrease in the use of chemical fertilizers.
  • Increase in organic matter, which means improvement in soil structure, moisture retention and soil biodiversity.
  • Slight increase in yield in sugar production.
  • Reduction of water erosion and surface runoff, which optimizes the infiltration of water that feeds the groundwater table.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry, with the support of Cengicaña and the ICC, works for the development and implementation of practices for soil conservation and thus promotes a sustainable, more ecological operation and sustainability of nature.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry presents the Sustainability Guild Report under the GRI standards

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry presented its Sustainability Guild Report for the 2019/20 and 2020/21 harvest seasons, elaborated with the assistance and collaboration of the International Labor Organization -ILO-; The report highlights the progress achieved in terms of environmental, social, and economic sustainability.

The Sustainability Guild Report uses the GRI methodology to integrate into documentary reporting with evidence. The GRI Standards are international best practices designed to inform the public of a variety of economic, environmental, and social impacts. Sustainability reporting against these Standards provides information about organizations’ contributions to sustainable development.

The report addresses 16 key sustainability points of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry. Among them: environmental actions,  generation of clean and renewable energy, the rational use of water and the implementation of systems for the efficient use of the resources, the commitment of the sector to the care and restoration of biodiversity, the reuse of waste, among others.

In the social area, the promotion of decent working conditions with safety and health, training to promote skills improvement and professional development to employees, the guarantee that there is no child labor, the evaluation of compliance with regulations in cane suppliers, evaluation of compliance in the matter of  respect of human rights, actions in communities to mitigate impacts of the operation, among others. In the economic sphere, taxation, support for local suppliers and vulnerable groups.

“It has been a great effort through several years to advance to this point with the integral perspective of PEOPLE + PLANET + PROFIT”, commented Alfredo Vila, president of the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association -Asazgua-.

He explained that since 2000 there is a system of Guild Governance, within the framework of national legislation, with Policies and Regulations. “In the Guatemalan Sugar Industry, we are committed to agricultural sustainability and sustainability,” he added.

Similarly, Randall Arias, Principal Specialist in activities with employers ACTEMP/ILO Central America, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti highlighted that, in addition to the quality of the report, the methodology and academic rigor, the guild vision of business associations is remarkable. “Today you set the standard for guilds not only in Guatemala, I serve 10 subregional countries, this is the first report from a guild. I want to congratulate Asazgua leaders for this extraordinary effort and for their commitment and ethics to report transparently”.

In addition, the document lists the governance policies and actions: Corporate Social Responsibility CSR, Labor Policy, Transportation Policy, HIV Policy, OHS Policy, Alignment to the Millennium Development Goals that when changing the Alignment to the Sustainable Development Goals, Environmental Policy, Environmental Guide of the Sugar Cane Sector with the Ministry of Environment, Policy for Suppliers and Policy of Respect for Human Rights.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry is an economic engine for the country

Almacen de azucar en Expogranel

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry is an economic engine for the country, according to data from the Bank of Guatemala in 2021 exports of sugar and its byproducts represented 5% of the country’s total exports.

In this way, sugar and its byproducts, molasses and alcohol, are placed as the second largest agro-industrial export product in Guatemala and one of the main products exported by the country.

Worldwide, Guatemalan Sugar is the sixth largest exporter and the ninth producer of sugarcane in the world. And in Latin America and the Caribbean it is the third largest exporter and producer of sugarcane.


In addition, Guatemala is the 3rd country with the highest productivity among the sugar producing countries, thanks to the work of the Guatemalan Sugarcane Research and Training Center -Cengicaña- which has developed sugarcane varieties that have a high sucrose content with which get more sugar on less cultivated land.

Main Export Destinations

The five main countries to which Guatemala exported in 2021 were the United States, Ivory Coast, Canada, Taiwan, and Chile.

Detailed by continent, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry exports were as follows: America with 49%, Africa with 18%, Asia with 24%, Europe with 8% and Oceania with 1%.

Vista aerea de Expogranel Guatemala

Molasses, another residue of sugar production, up to 55 million gallons of alcohol are produced each year, most of which are exported. According to data from the Bank of Guatemala in 2021, 72.4% went to the United States; 13.9% to the United Kingdom; 5.5% to Guyana; 5.1% to the Netherlands and 3% to Canada.

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 49.4%, the United States and its territories 19.8%, Mexico 11.7%, Switzerland 10.9% and El Salvador 8.8%.

The Sugar Race returns in its 35th edition and marks the beginning of the Zafra 2022-2023

Guatemala Sugar Race 2022

With the participation of around two thousand five hundred runners, on October 23rd the 35th edition of the Sugar Race was held, organized by the Guatemala Sugar Technicians Association -Atagua-, with the support of the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association -Asazgua-.

The Sugar Race marks the beginning of the Zafra, which is the harvest season for sugarcane and sugar production on the South of Guatemala. It had a 10.5-kilometer route and was divided into the categories Free, Master, Sugar Mill Workers and Atagua’s associates.

The sweetest race of the year began with the arrival of runners, family members and fans at Ingenio Concepcion in Escuintla; then, the runners gathered behind the start line where they sang the national anthem and at 8:00 Luis Miguel Paiz, general manager of Asazgua, gave the starting signal.

Guatemala Sugar Race 2022

Thousands of runners filled the main streets of the City of Escuintla and hundreds of people cheered them on. During the 10.5 kilometers of the race route, there were hydration stations and medical assistance.

Winner of Guatemala Sugar Race 2022

The first to cross the finish line was Alberto González Mindez, completing the course in 30 minutes and 21 seconds. Viviana Arochi was the first woman to conquer the route in 37 minutes and 21 seconds. The winner of first place in the male Master´s category was Francisco González Sut, with 33:56 minutes and the female Master was Olga Mariela Rodas Morales with 42:44.

At the end of the race, there were contests and prizes for the attendees, while the runners made use of the showers and enjoyed the hydration made available to them by the organizers.