Choosing Camino fair trade and organic sugar can make a difference – Part 1

Sugar has a bad reputation health-wise, and it’s well known we should all consume less of it. But for the little bit of sugar that we do eat, we should make sure that our purchases are meaningful.

For those times when you need to sweeten something, choosing our Camino fair trade and organic Golden cane or Whole brown sugars from small-scale farmers in Paraguay and Peru is an option that makes a real difference!

From a dream come true

Since 2001, we have been sourcing our fair trade and organic Golden cane sugar from the producer farmers of the Manduvira co-operative located in the village of Arroyos y Esteros, in the southwestern region of Paraguay. The co-op was founded in 1975 with just 39 members and now accounts for more than 1,200 members.

In 2003, the co-operative was still selling its sugar to a major regional mill. The mill was paying them so little money that the co-operative decided to organize itself and demand higher prices. After three weeks of boycotts and peaceful demonstrations, the mill finally agreed to higher prices for the farmers. It was one of the first times in the history of Paraguay that organized small farmers were able to peacefully and permanently win concessions from agro-industrial monopolies.

This victory empowered the co-operative. In 2005, the members took a bold step and rented a mill, which allowed them to process additional volume and export their sugar themselves to their fair trade clients. For this small Paraguayan co-operative to become an exporter in an economy dominated by large companies was largely unprecedented, to say the least.

However, the mill was far – 90 km away – and presented complicated logistics for the members to gather their cane before being processed into sugar. Meanwhile, the cooperative had bigger dreams. In 2008 they began planning to build their very own mill on a plot of land that was located about 5km away from their farms.

Since 2014 Manduvira has become the first co-op in the world to run a farmer-owned organic sugar mill. Owning their sugar mill allows the co-operative to process and export its sugar cane and consequently increase household income for its members.

The co-op manages the sugar mill and uses the bagasse – the remaining fibres left after crushing the sugar cane to extract the juice – to power the mill and offset carbon emissions while providing electricity to neighbouring homes.

With fair trade premiums, the co-operative has invested in member programs such as a local dental clinic, school uniforms, and technical crop assistance. The co-op also distributes 50% of its premiums as cash payments to farmers, which assists members in covering household costs in-between harvests when incomes are at their lowest.

From landless farmworkers, the rural workers of the Manduvira Co-op organized to become landowners, then became co-op owners, and are now proud sugar mill owners. 

“In 2003, our members were part of a quiet revolution to turn the tables on economic exploitation by the sugar mills. We denounced the abuses of the mills but kept our dream going. That dream was to have our own sugar mill – it was that or give up and leave our homes. Many people supported us, many were scared we would be jailed or killed … but today our original dream has become real.” Andres Gonzáles, GM of Co-op Manduvira.

A fair trade, organic and minimally refined sugar

Camino golden cane sugar is minimally processed. Because it retains a bit of the natural molasses from the organic plant, it has a nice light golden sandy colour.

The plant’s flavour and the naturally occurring molasses give our Golden cane sugar smooth tasting notes of caramel and melon, perfect for enhancing any drink or baking recipe.

These are a few of our favourites: Frozen Chocolate Pop, Peach Rooibos Iced Tea, Black Bean Brownies

Do you know Kombucha?

There is another beneficial aspect of our sugar which we would like to tell you about. For that, we spoke with Rise Kombucha, who has been using our Golden cane sugar produced by the Manduvira cooperative for more than ten years now.

Camino: Could you tell us about Rise Kombucha and the importance you place on finding quality ingredients?

RISE: RISE Kombucha is the leading Canadian brand of healthier beverages and the only Canadian producer serving the entire country. RISE’s commitment to creating the best kombucha possible is reflected in each of its flavours, which are meticulously vetted, tested and approved by the company’s passionate team before being released for sale. RISE has a strong procurement team to maximize kombucha formulas and works with suppliers to select quality ingredients from around the world.

RISE is the only manufacturer that masters a fermentation process derived from nature (wild strains) and offers a product that has it all – a kombucha that tastes good and which provides well-being.

Camino: Could you tell us about the role of sugar in making kombucha?

RISE: Kombucha is a beverage made by fermenting tea and sugar with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast called SCOBY.  Sugar is a necessary, key ingredient in the fermentation process. A true kombucha is raw, unpasteurized and full of good bacteria and yeast, which have many health benefits. Kombucha contains probiotics, organic acids and antioxidants that aid digestion and support the immune system.

Camino: How did you come to use Camino’s Golden Sugar?

RISE: We were seeking a sugar that was certified organic and fair trade and La Siembra’s Camino sugar was the best choice for our partners. As sugar is one of our key ingredients, it was really important to choose a quality cane sugar.

Visit to learn more about this great Canadian company, and stay tuned for part two of our article on Camino sugars!

Click here to read part 2 on Camino sugars

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