As pie and cookie season nears, we thought we'd focus on sugar for the final installment of our Fair Trade pantry series.Unlike some of the other ingredients we've looked at, such as cocoa and vanilla, most of the sugar consumed in the United States is domestically grown (primarily in the form of sugar beets, as well as some sugar cane). However, the US does import about 20 percent of its sugar from tropical and developing countries, and this is where Fair Trade certification can help promote economic and environmental stability.
Sugar farming is heavily subsidized in places like the US, Europe, and Japan. In contrast, sugar cane farmers in less developed countries have suffered from low world market prices, leading to poverty and malnutrition. What's more, sugar cane production often involves large amounts of herbicides, pesticides, and air and water pollution. Buyers committed to Fair Trade pay farmers a fair price that allows them to care for their families as well as invest in organic and sustainable agriculture training and certification.
Fair Trade Certified sugar is grown by farmer-owned cooperatives in Paraguay, Costa Rica, Peru, Malawi, Zambia, and the Philippines. Here's a list of brands and products available in the US and Canada. All of these are also organic.
Emily Ho is a writer, recipe developer, and educator. She lives in Los Angeles, where she teaches classes on food preservation, wild food, and herbalism. Emily is a Master Food Preserver and founder of LA Food Swap and the international Food Swap Network.
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