by David Pred
David Pred is co-founder and managing associate of Inclusive Development International (IDI), an association working to make the international development paradigm more just and inclusive.
Before you reach for that Tate and Lyle sugar packet to sweeten your coffee, you might want to think twice. While most Tate and Lyle sugar packets carry the Fair Trade label, Cambodian farmers who were displaced and dispossessed by their suppliers say that if you are buying this product, you are buying their blood. Earlier this month, representatives of affected communities called for a consumer boycott of companies selling sugar grown on stolen land, including Tate and Lyle Sugars.
Over the past several years, hundreds of thousands of Cambodians have been uprooted from their homes, farmlands, and forests by companies that have been granted concessions for the development of agro-industrial plantations.
The sugarcane industry has been one of the worst offenders in this land-grabbing crisis. In the last five years, land concessions totaling tens of thousands of hectares have been granted to private companies for industrial sugarcane production. These concessions have led to the destruction of protected forests and the pollution of water sources. Local farmers’ crops have been razed and their animals shot. Homes have been burned to the ground. Thousands of women and children have been left destitute. Some have been thrown in jail for daring to protest.
Despite the abundant evidence of these crimes, none of the responsible individuals and companies have been held to account. As if that wasn’t scandalous enough, this ‘blood sugar’ is being exported to Europe, where it receives special trade benefits under the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) initiative. Through this preferential trading scheme, the world’s least developed countries are able to export goods to the EU with zero tariffs or quotas, and in the case of sugar, at a guaranteed minimum price.
It should be a crime to peddle goods produced on stolen land, but instead the land-grabbers are awarded special trade privileges.