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.

In Guatemala 91% of vehicles that transport sugarcane use private roads built by the Sugar Industry

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry has build internal roads to transport sugarcane

In Guatemala 91% of the sugarcane produced is transported through an internal network of private roads built by the Guatemalan Sugar Industry. It means that only 1 out of every 10 vehicles that transport sugarcane uses national highways, the rest travel more than 2 thousand kilometers of roads or sugarcane routes that connect the cane fields with the factories in the sugar mills and that receive maintenance every year.

This internal road network of private roads helps to reduce the circulation of sugarcane trucks on national routes and are also used by dozens of communities as alternate routes.

In the “sugarcane route” road safety measures are applied such as signalmen or banderilleros in the sections where the transport of sugarcane crosses the roads to avoid accidents.

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

Transport Policy of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry

Once the sugarcane is harvested in the field, it is transported to the sugar mill factories to be transformed into sugar. In the last 20 years, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry has transformed the transport practices of the harvested sugarcane. 

These practices have regulations within the transport union policy, which is mandatory for all sugarcane transport drivers. The Sugar Industry has a continuous education and training program to facilitate the practical implementation of all standards.

In addition, the regulations of the policy dictate that all sugarcane transport units must have side and rear signage, mechanical maintenance program in sugar mills workshops and sugarcane fixing when appropriate.

The Transport Union Policy is also mandatory knowledge and compliance for all suppliers that provide sugarcane transport services to sugar mills. Compliance with these measures is verified by the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association inspectors.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry contributes to sanitation and water in local communities

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry contributes to sanitation and water in communities

The Guatemalan sugar producers through their foundation, Fundazucar, handed over 4 technical plans for water and sanitation that will benefit 12,185 people in the Pacific Lowlands of the country.

The studies were delivered to local authorities. They meet the requirements and standards of government institutions, which will facilitate the obtention of economic funds for their development.

Fundazucar provides free technical assistance and advice through the  Engineering and Water Sanitation Unit -Unisan- for the elaboration of water and sanitation projects, which are necessary to obtain the allocation of funds for their construction. Local government authorities oversee the financing, and als the execution of water and sanitation infrastructure projects.

This unit, created in 2001, promotes the execution of water and sanitation infrastructure projects at the municipal level, providing professional technical assistance. By this, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry contributes to the well-being and development of the local communities.


Economic Development Strategy for Fishing and Gastronomic Tourism

Capacitaciones servicio al cliente por Fundazucar

In 2021, the Economic Development Strategy for Fishing and Gastronomic Tourism on the South of Guatemala was launched, which is carried out in partnership between the Sugar Foundation -Fundazucar-, the Ministry of Economy -Mineco- Ministry of National Defense – Mindef-, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food -MAGA- and six municipalities.

The strategy aims to recover and generate new sources of income for fishermen and workers in the tourism sector in the municipalities of the beach area of the South of Guatemala, as well as to generate sources of employment.

Among the actions carried out within the framework of this strategy are training such as:

  • Business and fishing strengthening given by Mindef and Mineco.
  • Gastronomic diversification: good manufacturing practices and marketing of the finished product taught by Fundazucar to 269 chefs and cooks from hotels and restaurants.
  • Excellence in customer service by Fundazucar to 253 hotel and restaurant employees.
  • Seafood Cuisine: innovative recipes based on seafood taught by Intecap with scholarships granted by Fundazucar to 231 chefs and cooks from hotels and restaurants.

Once the training has been completed, Fundazucar focuses on the formulation of tourism development plans in conjunction with community members and local authorities. In addition, it will support the dissemination of tourist services in the participating municipalities and the creation of gastronomic festivals.

Health workers participate in the “Information for Action” seminars by Fundazucar

Health workers participate in the “Information for Action” seminars by Fundazucar

The Sugar Foundation -Fundazucar- in alliance with the Pan-American University -UPANA- and the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance -MSPAS- impart preventive health seminars “Information for Action” to 500 public health workers from the South of Guatemala.

The seminars will be held in 3 sessions of 5 hours each in August, September, and November of this year, in which health workers from the Guatemalan departments of Escuintla, Suchitepéquez, Retalhuleu, Santa Rosa and Jutiapa participate. The call has been a success because 95% participation of public health professionals has been reached in the first seminar.

The training will be given by UPANA and the following topics will be addressed:

  1. Situation room: elements, structure, and analysis.
  2. Future of non-communicable chronic diseases -CND-: evolution, impact, and vigilance.
  3. Data for decision making: collection, databases and introduction to data mining.

The objective of these seminars is to strengthen the technical skills and attitude of service of public health servers. It also seeks to deepen epidemiological surveillance, so that the health service can focus in a timely manner on health promotion and disease prevention.

Epidemiological surveillance consists of collecting data on a specific health problem; its analysis, interpretation and use in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of health programs.

Last year, 535 health professionals from the South of Guatemala were trained by the Sugar Foundation -Fundazucar-, in alliance with the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance in methodologies for the prevention of COVID-19 and strategies for the promotion preventive health in diseases such as dengue, zika and chikungunya; as well as monitoring of pregnant women and women with children up to two years old in what is called the “window of a thousand days”.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry acquires commitments to preserve and restore biodiversity

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

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry, with the technical advice of the Private Institute for Climate Change Research -ICC- and with the support of the Biodiversity and Business program in Central America and the Dominican Republic of the German Technical Cooperation -GIZ-, announced the commitments and “Guidelines for the Preservation and Restoration of the Biological Diversity in the Guatemalan Production of Sugar”.

Aware that Guatemala is one of the 20 megadiverse countries in the world, the directors of all the sugar mills, members of the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association, approved the guidelines to take specific actions to meet the goal of care and restore the biodiversity in the sugarcane zone.

“In the agro-landscape where sugarcane is grown were documented a third of all the birds know to live in the country. 248 species of birds have been identified in the forests and forest segments within the land where sugarcane grows, 55 of these species are protected according to international and national conservation lists, in addition 78 species of migratory birds find refuge in the sugar cane agro-landscape. ”, explained Alex Guerra, director of the ICC.

“Caring for this biological wealth in our environment is fundamental; thats why we’ve made commitments to carry out our operations in a sustainable way, prioritizing conservation and restoration so that the present and future generations can enjoy the flora and fauna that take refuge in the sugarcane zone”, said Alfredo Vila, president of the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association -Asazgua-.

Result of over 5 years of investigation

After more than 5 years of studies at the sugarcane landscape, ICC experts documented the existence of a great biological wealth. In Guatemala the sugarcane grows at the south of the country, in a landscape mixed with forests and other plantations.

With the technical support of the ICC and GIZ,  guidelines for the conservation and restoration of biological diversity in the production of Guatemalan Sugar were developed.

Bird seeing in forest within cane fields in GuatemalaThe Guatemalan Sugar Industry will have the scientific advice of the ICC to implement the guidelines, according to the natural conditions of each work area.

“The biological wealth that provides refuge to multiple species in the sugarcane agro-landscape is a treasure that must be taken care of.  It is crucial to protect the biological biodiversity in the world and here, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry has taken important commitments to allow Guatemala’s natural legacy to be perpetuated and inherit it to future generations” added Alfredo Vila president of the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association -Asazgua-.

Click here to see the full document (in Spanish).

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry generated 1,784 GWh of renewable energy

Renewable energy by the Guatemalan Sugar Industry

During the 2021-2022 Zafra, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry generated 1,784 GWh of renewable energy from sugarcane biomass. For this, more than 6.4 million tons of sugarcane bagasse were used, resulting from the sugar production process.

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry contributed with 26% of the energy consumed in the country during the last Zafra, according to the Association of Independent Cogenerators of Guatemala -ACI-.

The generation of energy from the Sugar Industry is strategic for the country since it takes place during the sugarcane harvest and sugar production season called Zafra. This starts in November and ends in May, so it includes the dry season months when the hydroelectric plants reduce their contribution to the National Interconnected System. This helps keep energy prices stable.

Sugar mills are self-sufficient

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry cogenerates renewable energyThe Guatemalan Sugar Industry has an installed generation capacity of 992 MW, this makes them self-sufficient in the energy field since they generate their own energy, and the surplus is sold to the National Interconnected System.

On average, 67% of the energy produced during the Zafra by the Sugar Industry is injected into the National Interconnected System to meet national demand and exports to Central America and Mexico. The remaining 33% is used for the operation of the factories of the sugar mills.

During the 2021/22 harvest, the cogeneration plants generated 1,784 (GWh) gigawatt-hours of renewable energy to deliver to the grid; the equivalent of 2 times the consumption of all the Municipal Electric Companies of Guatemala for 1 year or all the energy consumed by the more than 1.1 million users for a year.

Generacion de energía renovable con biomasa de caña de azúcarWith the generation of renewable energy, up to 4 million tons of CO2eq are prevented from reaching the environment each year, according to a study of the Carbon Footprint of Guatemalan Sugar, carried out by the Private Institute for Research on Climate Change of Guatemala -ICC-.