Poor Communities Being Kicked off Land so Big Brands can Feed World’s Increasing Appetite for Sugar

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The biggest names in the food and drink industry are not doing enough to stop land grabs and conflicts in their supply chains, says Oxfam in a new report today.

The report Nothing sweet about it: How sugar fuels land grabs highlights examples of land grabs and disputes linked to companies that supply sugar for Coca-Cola and PepsiCo products, and allegations of disputes inside Associated British Foods’ supply chain.

Lauren Ravon, policy advisor for Oxfam Canada said: “Many Canadians are worried about the impact of sugar on their health. Oxfam Canada is also worried about the impact of sugar on the land rights of poor communities. Across the world they are being kicked off their land to make way for huge sugar plantations. When they lose their land they often lose their homes and their main source of food and income. Women are especially hard hit when this happens.”

“We are calling on Canadians to tell the world’s biggest producers and consumers of sugar –Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Associated British Foods – to act now to stamp out land grabs. Together these companies have a lot of influence and could change the way the industry does business,” she said.

The global sugar trade is worth about $47 billion. The world produced 176 million tonnes of sugar last year. The food and drinks industry accounts for more half of it. Sugar production is predicted to increase by 25 per cent by 2020. Thirty one million hectares, an area the size of Italy, is already being used to grow our sugar, much of it in the developing world.

Land grabs are big deals where local communities that rely on the land are evicted without consent or compensation. Oxfam’s “Behind the Brands” campaign says that the world’s ten biggest food and drink companies lack strong enough policies to stop land grabs and disputes from featuring in their supply chains.

Oxfam has evidence of land grabs and conflicts in Brazil and other countries including:

  • A fishing community in Pernambuco State, Brazil fighting for access to their land and fishing grounds, after having been violently evicted in 1998 by a sugar mill. The mill provides sugar to Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. Many of the families are now living in slums of the nearest town and struggling to make a living.
  • In Mato Grosso do Sul in Brazil indigenous communities are fighting the occupation of their land by sugar plantations supplying a mill owned by Bunge. Coca-Cola buys sugar from Bunge in Brazil but says it does not buy from this particular mill. The plantations have destroyed the forests that the people had relied upon for food.
  • Associated British Foods (ABF), through their ownership of Illovo, Africa’s biggest producer of sugar cane, has also been linked in media reports to land conflicts in Mali, Zambia and Malawi.

Oxfam is calling on Coca Cola, PepsiCo and Associated British Foods to commit to zero tolerance of land grabs throughout their supply chains. They should publicly disclose who and where they source their commodities, publish assessments about how the sugar they purchase affects local communities’ land rights, and use their power to encourage governments and the wider food industry to respect land rights. All three companies scored poorly or very poorly on their land policies in Oxfam’s Behind the Brands scorecard.

  • Coca-Cola is the world’s largest buyer of sugar and controls 25 per cent of the global soft drink market. Its portfolio of 500 brands includes Diet Coke, Sprite, and Minute Maid Juices
  • PepsiCo controls 18 per cent of the soft drink market and has a portfolio of 21 brands including Pepsi, Tropicana, Doritos, and Lipton Teas
  • Associated British Foods is the world’s second largest sugar producer and the owner of popular brands such as Ovaltine and Twinings Teas.

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Notes to editors

More information, including backgrounders and videos are available here.

Oxfam is an international confederation of 17 organizations networked together in more than 90 countries, as part of a global movement for change, to build a future free from the injustice of poverty.
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Melanie Gallant
Media Relations


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