Guatemalan Sugar Cane Agroindustry will reforest with more than 955,000 trees in 2023

The Guatemalan Sugar Association and the Private Institute for Climate Change Research -ICC- presented the 2023 Reforestation Plan, which this year consists of planting more than 955,000 trees in 11 departments of the country that will cover around 860 hectares of land, a space that is equivalent to about 1,229 soccer fields.

With the first reforestation day, of the season, the 2023 Reforestation Plan began. The activity, in which 500 trees were planted, took place at the Limones farm at the outskirts of the town Santa Lucía Cotzumalguapa; located at 90 kilometers (56 miles) at the south of Guatemala city.

The event included the participation of Alfredo Vila, president of the Association of Sugar Producers of Guatemala -Asazgua-; Dr. Alex Guerra, Director of the Private Institute for Climate Change Research -ICC-; Ing. Rony Granados, Manager of the National Institute of Forests -INAB-; as well as collaborators of the sugar mills and journalists from the media.

With this year’s reforestation plan, 8.8 million trees will be planted since 2011, in strategic areas for the recovery and conservation of basins that influence the South of Guatemala. This as part of the commitment of the Sugarcane Agroindustry to sustainability and the care of natural resources,” said Alfredo Vila, president of Asazgua.

Reforestation will take place in 11 departments of the country: Escuintla, Chimaltenango, Retalhuleu, Suchitepéquez, Sacatepéquez, Santa Rosa, Jalapa, Quetzaltenango, Sololá, Jutiapa and San Marcos.

“In 2011 Asazgua, ICC and local partners started a program for the conservation and recovery of forests in strategic areas to contribute to the protection of riverbanks, water recharge zones and biological corridors. Around 7,000 hectares have been reforested, to which 860 will be added this year. By the end of 2023, the equivalent of 11,000 soccer fields will have been reforested,” said Alex Guerra, Director of the ICC.

Since the beginning of the program in 2011, 55 native species have been reforested, among them: matilisguate, aripín, cenícero, madre cacao, conacaste, cedar, mahogany, palo blanco, volador, plumillo, hormigo, caulote, among others.

ICC technical support

The ICC provides support and technical and scientific advice and is the link with communities, organizations, municipal and regional authorities, for the installation of nurseries and identification of reforestation areas. The 955,000 plants that will be planted this year were produced in 67 nurseries installed in different locations. In addition, this program has the support of the National Institute of Forests -INAB-.

In addition to this effort, the sugar mills have individual reforestation programs and their own natural forests, through which they total 14,800 hectares, equivalent to 21,144 soccer fields.

2023 Reforestation Plan

These efforts and those that are planned, contribute to the management of the Guatemalan Pacific basins since forest resources are vital to maintain the water cycle, protect the soil, maintain the diversity of flora and fauna, among other benefits.

Reforestation is also part of the contributions of the Sugarcane Agroindustry to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations Organization, especially goal 15: “Life of Terrestrial Ecosystems”, which aims to manage forests of sustainable manner and objective 13 “Climate Action” which implies actions to combat the effects of climate change.

UNALA presents its strategic sustainability plan at UN headquarters

The Union of Latin American Sugar Producers -UNALA- held its annual meeting on May 2nd at the United Nations building in New York, in which the presentation of its Strategic Sustainability Plan took place.

“The basis of the sustainability strategy that we present today is a sign of our commitment to a sustainable future and the need to work together to achieve it. We are committed to implementing sustainable practices in all our operations, reducing our environmental impact, and contributing to the social and economic development of the communities in which we operate,” said Alfredo Vila, president of UNALA and the Guatemalan Sugar Producers Association -Asazgua-.

Similarly, Luis Miguel Paiz, general manager of Asazgua, who oversaw presenting the basis of the strategic plan for sustainable development, highlighted that the actions promoted by UNALA contribute to the fulfillment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, as well as other global agendas such as Climate Change and Biodiversity.

He added that sustainable production is carried out through the efficient use of resources and the development of renewable energies that help reduce the environmental impact and that UNALA, in its Sustainable Development plan, works to improve local communities and promote actions to mitigate deforestation and loss of biodiversity.

“The sugar industry contributes to the economic growth of the region, allowing not only new opportunities for its workers, but also the development of the countries. It also ensures the social development of its areas of action”, expressed Paiz.

He indicated that the Latin American sugar sector is not only efficient, but also environmentally responsible, and that the sustainable development of the sugar industry is key to reducing environmental impact, reducing greenhouse gases, and protecting biodiversity. Therefore, the Latin American sugar industry is much more than sugar, it is energy for sustainable development.

In this regard, the president of UNALA, Alfredo Vila, indicated that the adoption of sustainable practices in the industry represents important benefits for society in general, such as the reduction of poverty, the generation of employment, as well as the preservation of the environment.

“We are strongly committed to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals by generating development opportunities, producing almost 6.5 million jobs, and producing renewable energy, such as ethanol and the cogeneration of electrical energy from sugarcane bagasse”, Vila said.

Juan Antonio Bernard Estrada, Chargé d’Affaires a.i. the permanent mission of Guatemala to the United Nations Organization; Alfredo Vila, president of UNALA; Luis Miguel Paiz, general manager of Asazgua; Minoru Takada, Energy team leader in the Sustainable Development Goals Division, Nadine Salame of the Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions Network. Directors and representatives of the 12 organizations that make up UNALA were also present.

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 this is why are included in 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 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 SDGs 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 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.

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.