Understanding the relationship between Canada’s sugar consumption and human rights in Guatemala

Published by Brent Patterson on

The Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project has highlighted that the sugar business in Guatemala means “sweet profits for exporters, bitter impacts for communities.”

Abelino Mejia Cancino is a member of the PBI-Guatemala accompanied Council of Communities of Retalhuleu (CCR).

Abelino says: “We need people to realize that when they consume sugar, it has an impact on the life of the communities and on the right to water for all.”

Notably, the Guatemalan Sugar Association (ASAZGUA) has identified Canada as the top export destination for Guatemalan sugar.

In September 2020 it reported Guatemala exported 333,596 metric tons of sugar to Canada. The next largest market was the United States at 261,628 MT.

Where would one find Guatemalan sugar in Canada?

The Canadian Sugar Institute notes: “Raw sugar is transported by ship in bulk cargo to refineries located at deep water ports in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto.”

It further notes: “Approximately 94% is refined from raw cane sugar imported in bulk to cane sugar refining operations in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.”

Those sugar refineries are: Rogers Sugar (Vancouver), Redpath Sugar Ltd (Toronto) and Lantic Inc (Montreal).

The Canadian Sugar Institute also explains: “More than 85% of Canada’s sugar production is destined for the industrial market.”

From there, sugar is found in over 40,000 packaged food and beverage products available on Canadian store shelves.

As such, sugar can be found in a wide variety of products including snack bars, juice, yogurt, and even baby food and formula.

Furthermore, raw sugar bought in grocery stores in Canada is more likely to bear the name of the sugar refinery (Rogers, Redpath or Lantic) than the country of origin.

As such, it is difficult to pinpoint how Canadians are consuming sugar from Guatemala.

That said, it is known that Canadians consume the equivalent of about 26 teaspoons of sugar everyday (about 30 per cent of that from vegetables and fruit).

So, while it does not appear easily discernible to know when we are consuming Guatemalan sugar, it is still important to keep in mind Abelino’s call for understanding that the consumption of this sugar has an impact on the life of communities and the right to water.

To read the PBI-Guatemala article below, please click here.

And for a 7-minute video on this (with English subtitles) posted on the PBI-Guatemala Facebook page, please click here.

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