What the Guatemalan Sugar Mills do to save water?

Guatemalan Sugar irrigation system

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.

Guatemalan Sugar Mills carry out humanitarian work to assist the victims of the volcano eruption.

Guatemala june 4, 2018. The 11 sugar mills, members of the Guatemala Sugar Association (ASAZGUA), solidarize with the Guatemalan society, the victims and relatives of the victims of the eruption of the Fuego Volcano.

The mils through the Sugar Association of Guatemala, have put at the disposal of the authorities: industrial kitchens, heavy machinery and medical support, to provide assistance to the victims and restore access roads to the affected communities. These resources will be at the complete disposal and coordination of the Emergency Operations Center of the Guatemalan Government as required.

The Sugar from Guatemala acquired the commitment to use their industrial kitchens available for the preparation of food that is to be supplied at the shelters functioning in Siquinalá and Santa Lucía Cotzumalguapa, also in Escuintla.

There will also be support the work done in the roads to clear the access to the communities affected by the eruption; however, it will be the authorities who will prioritize and establish the strategy to carry out these tasks.

Regarding health assistance, the industry is coordinating the donation of medicines to attend wounded patients who have presented burns, ophthalmologic and respiratory problems. These donations will be delivered through the adequate channels.

“Our focus at this time, is to help the authorities attend the emergency. We are more committed than ever with Guatemala, but especially with our neighbors, since our operations are carried out in the affected area, on the South of Guatemala”, was stated at a press release of the Industry.


Facing Climate Change challenges

Facing Climate Change challenges

The climate change is a challenge that the world faces today, and the Guatemalan Sugar Industry is aware of that, and has taken measures to face it.

One of the ways has been research. In this field the scientists of the Guatemalan Research Center of the Sugar Cane –Cengicaña in Spanish-, have developed new sugarcane varieties resistant to pest, diseases and water stress in order to adapt to the conditions of every specific region, where the sugarcane grows.

Also, given the impact of Climate Change, the sugar Agroindustry has implemented practices to reduce water consumption, and the use of water in agricultural processes has been reduced through the implementation of more efficient irrigation systems, as well as the use of new technologies and processes such as the dry cleaning of the sugar cane when it reaches the mills. Only this saves millions of gallons of water.

Some mills in Guatemala have reduced in 99 per cent the use of water in specific processes; meanwhile the industrial waste water produced is sent to treatment and then since it´s loaded with nutrients is used to ferti irrigation systems, back at the fields.

In addition, with the support of the Guatemalan Climate Change Institute –ICC in Spanish- the Sugar Industry has planted 3.4 million trees since 2011, and this year the goal is 1 million dollars.

Guatemala exports US$825.3 million in 2017

Guatemala exports US$825.3 million in 2017

The Sugar Agroindustry of Guatemala exported US$825.7 million in sugar last year, according to official information from the Bank of Guatemala (Central).

The destiny of the Guatemalan sugar was in 44 percent to the American continent; 27 percent to Africa and 24 percent to Asia; the remaining 5 percent went to Europe and Oceania.

The Sugar from Guatemala and its byproducts is the second most exported product from the country and in 2017 represented 9 percent of the total exports, after textiles that represented 12 percent.

The countries that imported more sugar from Guatemala last year, were United States, Ivory Coast, Chile, Malasia and Peru.

One of the strengths of the Sugar of Guatemala is the vision and unity of the Guild, that has led to the creation of specialized institutions in scientific research, exports and social sustainability, factors that had contributed to their competitiveness and leadership in the international market.

Guatemalan Sugar byproducts are coveted

Guatemalan Sugar byproducts are coveted

The productivity of the Sugar from Guatemala is a symbol of efficiency and technological progress at global level, Guatemala it´s the second largest sugar exporter in Latin America y and fourth in the world.

As a result of that efficiency, the byproducts of the sugar production as alcohol and Molasses, are mainly exported. Last year Guatemala exported 308,446 metric tons of molasses, according to official records of Bank of Guatemala (Central).

The molasses were exported to the United States, Virgin Islands, United Kingdom, South Africa and Taiwan. The alcohol and ethanol were exported to Netherlands, Puerto Rico, South Corea and Mexico, among other countries.

The Guatemalan Sugar Mills are self sufficient in the energy field, as they generate their own energy and the surplus is sold to the National and regional electricity Market, contributing to the diversification of the Guatemalan energy matrix, and reducing the dependence on bunker.

The Guatemalan Sugar Atroindustry has an installed capacity of energy generation of 630 Megawatts, and since it´s efficient, the energy its cogenerated from biomass, another residue form the sugar production.