Sugarcane, primarily grown in tropical countries, provides both food and fuel. Sugarcane supplies 86% of the world’s sugar and serves as a key biofuel feedstock, given its efficiency in converting sunlight into energy.
Developing countries account for about three-quarters of global sugar consumption. Asia and Africa are the top demanding regions due to population increases, urbanization and income growth, and dietary patterns shift. These demographic changes are expected to increase demand for sugar in the form of caloric sweeteners, processed products, sugar-rich confectionery and soft drinks.
Production of voluntary sustainability standard (VSS) sugar has been on the rise in the past two decades. About 90 per cent of VSS-compliant sugarcane comes from Latin America, specifically Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Paraguay, with substantial volumes also deriving from Australia, India and Malawi.
However, the sector must overcome significant hurdles to produce VSS-compliant sugar. This includes limiting air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, conserving water resources, respecting labour rights and worker health and safety, and improving producer profitability.
100 million jobs
The sugarcane industry provides livelihoods for 100 million people globally, with over one million in Brazil, 1.5 million in Thailand, and a half million in South Africa.
VSS production up by 52%
From 2008 to 2016, production of VSS-compliant sugarcane experienced a compound annual growth rate of about 52 per cent, while conventional sugarcane increased at less than one per cent.
60 million tonnes
In 2016, at least 60 million tonnes of sugarcane was VSS-compliant, valued at USD 1.5 billion.
USD 57.5 billion
In 2018, sugar, whether white or refined, met almost 80 per cent of the sweetener market demands, with a retail value of USD 57.5 billion.
VSS-compliant sugarcane accounted for at least 3.2 per cent of total sugarcane production in 2016
In 2016, 3.2 per cent of the market was made up of VSS compliant sugarcane, 0.1 per cent of sugarcane that was potentially VSS-compliant and 96.7 per cent of conventional sugarcane production.
Good progress toward sourcing more sustainable cane sugar
Corporate sustainable sourcing commitments are driving demand for VSS-compliant sugar. The six largest cane sugar-consuming companies in the food manufacturing sector purchased more than 9.4 million tonnes in 2017. From this total, at least 2.7 million tonnes was VSS-compliant. Based on their sourcing commitments and assessing these against current cane sugar sourcing information, an additional 4.5 million tonnes of sustainable cane sugar could be consumed by 2020.
VSS-compliant sugarcane production volumes in 2016
VSS-compliant sugarcane experienced a compound annual growth rate of about 52 per cent from 2008 to 2016, reaching at least 3.2 per cent of sugarcane overall production in 2016. Bonsucro, Fairtrade, Organic and Rainforest Alliance are the main VSSs in the sugarcane sector when ranked by production size.
Distribution of sugarcane production in the top 15 producing countries in 2016
Sustainable sugarcane production is experiencing greater growth than the overall sector and is on the verge of significant expansion.