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.
32 years ago, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry joined forces and created the Sugar Foundation -Fundazucar-, which was born as the dream of a group of visionary businessmen who bet on education to promote development on the South of Guatemala.
At the Guatemalan Sugar Industry, we celebrate the 32nd anniversary of Fundazucar, which believes in development through training, an example of which is Better Families, a model that promotes Food and Nutritional Security, self-esteem, self-management and leadership in women, as agents of change for the development and well-being of their families and their communities and has trained more than 532 thousand women.
The program has been so successful that it was implemented in Honduras and is currently being adopted by the municipalities of Escuintla, Masagua, La Gomera, La Democracia, Tiquisate in the department of Escuintla, as well as in San Lorenzo and San Jose el idolo, in Suchitepequez.
Thanks to the commitment and effort of the team of social managers who bring training and development to remote communities on the South of Guatemala, Fundazucar has positioned itself as an example and benchmark in community development projects at a national and international level.
We congratulate Fundazucar on its 32nd anniversary and the leaders who had the vision to create the social arm of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry.
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).
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.
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 start of the Zafra contributes to the reactivation of the economy. The activities of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry generates more than 54 thousand direct jobs and 270 thousand indirect ones.
The Guatemalan Sugar Industry is an economic engine for the country since it generates an economic footprint of more than US$ 1,188 million each year, which reaches 90% of the country’s municipalities and each year generates more than 54 thousand direct jobs and distribute more than US$ 402 million in wages and salaries.
In addition, the Sugar Industry hires more than 6,325 supplier companies (large, medium, and small) of products and services, who also become employers and multiply the opportunities for the population.
The 2021-2022 Zafra will take place in challenging conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry continues with strict biosecurity measures both in the field and in the factory.
“The Zafra is the harvest season for sugarcane and sugar production, which takes place from November to May. Our commitment every year is to improve our processes to be more and more efficient and develop our operation in a responsible way with our neighbors”, commented Luis Miguel Paiz, General Manager of the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association -Asazgua-.
More than 437 health professionals from 65 health posts and health centers on the South of Guatemala are trained with the “Health Comes First” program of the Sugar Foundation -Fundazucar- in alliance with the Ministry of Health and Social Assistance with the aim of promoting health preventive in the communities.
Since 2016 Fundazucar, in alliance with the Ministry of Health, has promoted the innovative program “Health Comes First”, which trains public health workers to develop technical skills and an attitude of service.
In addition, joint prevention actions are carried out against COVID-19 and vector-borne diseases such as dengue, Zika and / or chinkunguya through the education and training of human resources in the health sector and in the communities of the South of Guatemala.
Some of the actions that have been carried out as part of the “Health Comes First” program are:
Delivery of the Protocol “Plan for the prevention, containment and response to cases of COVID-19” from the Ministry of Health to 65 health services of the South of Guatemala.
Trainings for 500 health professionals distributed in 12 face-to-face and / or virtual training workshops on the COVID-19 protocol of the Ministry of Health and preventive health promotion, with an emphasis on the “1,000-day window” and diseases caused by vectors such as Zika, Dengue and Chinkunguya; with 93% attendance.
Technical support to health professionals for the use and updating of epidemiological data analysis, with the aim of developing a culture of analysis of the information produced for making timely decisions.
“The Guatemalan Sugar Industry promotes the development and well-being of the communities through a responsible operation and the execution of social programs aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals -SDG-“, affirmed Maria Silvia Pineda, Sustainability Manager of -Asazgua- and director of Fundazucar.
Soil analysis: this is the basic tool to know the properties of the soil and the availability of nutrients and physical and chemical characteristics which are analyzed by sampling the areas, the region’s climate, sun radiation, thermal amplitude, topography, inclination, and risks of erosion among others.
Soil conservation structures and use of vegetation are implemented on the sides of the roads.
The protection of wetlands, forest areas and natural water courses is promoted.
Sowing the appropriate sugarcane that best adapts to each soil, based on its agronomic characteristics, resistance to pests and adaptation to climatic variations.
Sugarcane cultivation is renewed every 5 years to maintain its yield, therefore, in some suitable areas this renewal is used to nourish the soil through the Green Fertilizer program of the sugar industry.
Sustainable practices to maintain soil fertility
The application of nutrients is vital to maintain the fertility of the soils and derived from the analysis of the fields, the strategies for their use are determined, among which are:
Use of green fertilizer
The Green Fertilizer program of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry is an ecological measure of planting legume plants that provide the soil with nitrogen and thus avoid the use of commercial products. 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 for crops.
Use of organic fertilizers
Organic matter improves the physical, chemical, and biological properties of the soil, favoring a greater availability of nutrients for plants and improving the health of the soil in general.
In the Guatemalan Sugar Industry, significant amounts of organic waste are generated as by-products that have high agronomic value, including filter mud, ash, and vinasse.
Filter mud is a residue from the manufacture of sugar and provides the soil with 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.
The ash, mixed with filter cake, is beneficial for soils with acidic Ph.
Rainwater is captured in ditches and wells; this is an agronomic practice that contributes to the recharge of groundwater. This agronomic practice is responsible for the environment, contributes to the recharge of groundwater, to mitigate the erosion of the soil by precipitation and to avoid floods.
The Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association -Asazgua- was certified as an Authorized Economic Operator of Guatemala -AEO- in the activity of Exporter by the Guatemalan Superintendency of Tax Administration -SAT-.
This accreditation reinforces compliance with international safety standards and obligations in current legislation on the export of sugar. In addition, operational and administrative procedures of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry with the SAT will be more agile and it may be recognized as an AEO by the customs services of other countries that have similar programs with which a mutual recognition agreement has been signed.
Guatemala is one of the 16 countries in Latin America, North America and the Caribbean Region that have implemented the figure of the Authorized Economic Operator (AEO). AEOs are individual or legal persons that are considered reliable and safe economic operators by Customs Authorities because they comply with international security standards, as well as the norms, requirements and obligations established in current customs legislation.