The sugar industry is a force for economic prosperity and progress in Guatemala, but it has also propelled the country into an international sugar powerhouse. From serving as a model in sustainable production and industrialization to efficiency in sugar port loading, the Guatemala sugar industry is recognized globally as one of the leaders in sugar production.
Guatemala has characteristics that make it the perfect place for planting cane and producing sugar, this, coupled with good business practices, has made the country the fifth largest sugar exporter in the world and the third most efficient globally.
The Guatemala sugar industry has invested in a resilient infrastructure and created an integrated approach that has turned it into the ninth largest cane sugar producer in the world.
Guatemala is the third most productive country in the world when it comes to sugar production. The cultivation area is of around 2.97% of the country, and even as production grows, the land area for sugar cultivation remains the same thanks to the implementation of modern techniques.
According to the International Sugar Association, Guatemala is the second largest exporter of sugar in Latin America and the fifth in the world.
Guatemalan Sugar in the world
Guatemala produces over half of the total sugarcane in Central America. In 2021, Guatemala was the ninth largest sugarcane producer globally.
The sugar industry (sugar, alcohol, and molasses) amounts to 4 percent of the total exports for Guatemala.
Its integrated approach has made Guatemala the leader in port loading efficiency for the exportation of sugar worldwide.
Production rates in Guatemala have increased while land use – which is approximately three percent – has not expanded at the same rate, which can be attributed to increased recovery rates at the sugar mills, as well as increased sugarcane yields
In the past three decades, sugarcane yields increased 35 percent. Sugarcane yield has increased and techniques have improved as the industry strives to be more competitive and environmentally sustainable throughout its production approach.
The sugar industry is a major job creator in Guatemala and is committed to providing productive employment at every stage of the sugar development process to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth.
Each year the sugar industry pays more than US$400 million in wages and salaries (Q3 billion), to which must be added to all the economic dynamics that are generated by the mills with suppliers in populations located in the area of influence. The opportunities discourage irregular migration to the United States.
Currently, the application of guild policies in labor, environment, among others are being implemented for all the independent suppliers of sugarcane that sell their harvest to sugar mills.
In Guatemala, the Sugar Industry its responsible for the generation of more than 56 thousand direct jobs that include cane cutters, industrial workers, experts in science and technology; as well as, 270 thousands indirect jobs. The sugar industry touches many labor sectors and provides an opportunity for economic growth.
The industry brings jobs to many rural communities, and the harvest season provides jobs for migrant workers from the northern regions in the country. In addition to jobs, sugar mills in partnership with Fundazucar implement programs that teach cane cutters the skills they need for personal advancement.
In the southern region of Guatemala, the sugar industry touches nearly every household—9 out of 10 of those surveyed (from the South) know either a friend or a close family member who works in sugar.
The Guatemala Sugar Industry considers the safety of its employees its utmost priority and has made significant progress to eliminate the use of child labor. Since 2011 the practice of child labor in the Guatemala sugar industry was eradicated.
As one of the country’s most sustainable and productive industries, it is the leading example within the Guatemalan Sugar Industry for its contribution to the United Nation’s sustainable development goals.
The competitive advantage from Guatemala’s sugar producers is due to the export and R&D organizations it founded to become more efficient and productive.
A boarding terminal dedicated to the export of sugar that was created in 1994, with the aim of being efficient and competitive in international markets.
It has the capacity to store 408,600 metric tons of sugar in bulk, and is a boarding terminal that does port logistics work and is responsible for receiving, inspection, storing and shipping sugar from all sugar mills in Guatemala.
It has the capability of loading a ship of 30 thousand tons in bulk in an average of 18 hours.
Expogranel is named in 2015 as the most efficient cargo terminal in the world sugar industry by the report of the International Service of Agriculture of the Department of Agriculture of the United States.
Sugarcane is researched by dedicated scientists at Cengicaña; the research facility created to advance sugarcane production in Guatemala, to determine which breeding varieties reduce water intake and have a greater immunity to desease.
Created in 1992 with the objetive of studying and developing new varieties, integrated pest management, soil quality and efficient processes for sugar cane cultivation and production. As a result, 33 varieties of sugarcane resistant to pests have bee developed, more productive and with adaptation to Climate Change.
The crops have been carefully planted through precision agriculture tu use land and water resources in a sustainable manner, limiting the impact on the environment and the communities surrounding it. Highly cognizant of the increased impacts of climate change ocurring in Guatemala, the industry is drive by its mission to be conservationists of natural resources and biodiversity.