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-.

The carbon footprint of Guatemalan Sugar is one of the lowest internationally

The carbon footprint of Guatemalan Sugar is one of the lowest internationally

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry, committed to the sustainable management of the environment and the mitigation of climate change, has made efforts in its production processes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; as a result, the carbon footprint of Guatemalan Sugar is one of the lowest internationally.

The carbon footprint of Guatemalan Sugar for the 2019-2020 harvest was estimated at 0.33kg of CO2eq for each kilogram of sugar produced, which is among the lowest in relation to others worldwide, according to the Emissions Inventory Study of Greenhouse Gases and Carbon Footprint of Guatemalan Sugar by the Private Institute for Climate Change Research -ICC-.

ICC experts carried out an inventory of emissions generated by the burning of sugarcane biomass in the field, use of nitrogen fertilizers and other fertilizers and agricultural inputs, change of use and land cover, use of fuels for agricultural and transport activities, generation of electricity for internal consumption, consumption of electrical energy from the national interconnected system, inputs for industrial processes and industrial wastewater.

The result of this balance, between what we emit, fix, and avoid is the carbon footprint. Guatemalan Sugar has a footprint of “0.33kg CO2eq / kg sugar” (0.33 kilograms of CO2 equivalent per kilogram of sugar), it is a very small footprint compared to other foods and to other sugar-producing countries in the world.

For example, our carbon footprint is lower than that of producers in the United States, the European Union, Thailand, and the United Kingdom, among others. This means that the Guatemalan Sugar production process is more environmentally friendly.

Guatemalan Sugar gallery forests

It is important to mention that there are activities that generate emissions, but there are also activities that reduce or avoid them; for example, when cane grows, it absorbs or stores CO2 from the environment, which it needs to grow. The Guatemalan Sugar Industry also has natural forests that store 1,415,638 tons of CO2 equivalent.

Likewise, the generation of energy with the bagasse or biomass of the cane prevents up to 4 million tons of CO2 from reaching the environment per year, since it uses a renewable resource and not fossil fuels such as mineral coal. In the Zafra season, the Sugar Industry supplies around 30% of the energy that the country uses, this renewable energy.

The sugarcane crops in Guatemala use 47% less water compared with the rest of the world

Guatemalan cane irrigation system

As part of the commitment to the rational use of water, the Guatemalan Sugar Industry has adopted several measures that allow them to be more efficient and sustainable with the environment, as a result, each ton of sugarcane produced in Guatemala uses 47% less water than the cane produced at world level.

The water footprint of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry is 47% lower than the global average, according to a study prepared by the Private Institute for Climate Change Research -ICC-.

According to this study, the country’s meteorological conditions have made it possible for rain to contribute 73% of the water footprint of the crop during the 2019-2020 harvest, and the irrigation water used represented only 21% of the water footprint.

In addition, Cengicaña experts have developed a mobile application to optimize the use of irrigation water in sugarcane called Cengiriegos, which allows only the water it needs to be applied to the plant.

Likewise, in the industrial process, the Sugar Industry has also invested to optimize the use of the vital liquid, an example of this is that the water used in the sugar manufacturing process is reused repeatedly and for this there are specialized towers that receive the water used to make sugar, cool it and then return it to the factory, in a recirculation process.

cooling systems