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Equal Exchange Sweetens Fair Trade:
Fair Trade Pioneers Expand Their Work
with Small-scale Cane Growers

Equal Exchange has broadened its work to offer Fair Trade Certified sugar in 3.5 gram single-serving packets – the first organic Fair Trade sugar to be introduced into the U. S. market. This marks the latest expansion of Equal Exchange’s efforts to bring the benefits of Fair Trade to more farmers worldwide, and to more consumers in the United States. The organic evaporated cane sugar is grown by three cooperatives of small-scale farmers in Paraguay, and is imported in collaboration with La Siembra, a Fair Trade worker cooperative in Ottawa, Canada.

The Fair Trade model ensures higher incomes for these sugar cane growers, who often face unpredictable swings in the prices paid for their crop. Fair Trade also provides support for their cooperatives, a key to self-help efforts and local economic development. On average the 150 participating families cultivate less than 20 acres of sugar cane each and therefore cannot individually afford to invest in the infrastructure that would help them raise their standard of living. By combining their efforts with neighboring farmers, and with the extra income generated by Fair Trade sales, social and economic improvements have become possible. The cooperatives have already used Fair Trade funds to set up educational scholarships for their children, to open a new warehouse, and a telecommunications center. They have also purchased equipment to perform more value-added processing.

Equal Exchange began selling the sugar packets in November, 2004, and now distributes the sugar to cafés, restaurants, consumer food cooperatives, and to churches participating in Equal Exchange’s unique Interfaith Coffee Program. Numerous requests for Fair Trade sugar from places of worship were a key factor in the decision to add this new product.

In keeping with its Fair Trade mission Equal Exchange is a worker cooperative, owned and democratically controlled by its employees. Since its founding in 1986, the cooperative has continually expanded the reach of Fair Trade. In addition to expanding their core Fair Trade coffee operation, and publicly promoting the Fair Trade model, they have expanded into new food and beverage categories. Equal Exchange launched its line of fairly traded organic teas in 1998. In 2002 Equal Exchange began working with the Paraguayan cooperatives, when their sugar was used for Equal Exchange’s organic hot cocoa mix. In 2004 Equal Exchange greatly expanded its work with both sugar and cocoa farmers when it introduced organic, Fair Trade Certified chocolate bars.

Interestingly, and encouragingly, the largest sugar corporation in the US has also just introduced a Fair Trade Certified sugar™. This is actually good news, because usually the largest corporations only join the Fair Trade market long after little guys like Equal Exchange blaze a trail. This is not competition for Equal Exchange. Their sugar is non-organic, and will be distributed through supermarkets and natural food stores, while Equal Exchange sugar is just for restaurants, cafes, and cafeterias.

Equal Exchange, a pioneer and U.S. market leader in Fair Trade coffee, provides high quality, organic coffee, tea, cocoa products and chocolate to retailers and food service establishments. Customers include supermarket chains, natural food stores, consumer food cooperatives, cafés, restaurants, and thousands of places of worship nationwide. All Equal Exchange products are fairly traded, benefiting 27 small farmer cooperatives in 16 countries around the world.

For more information please contact: Rodney North, Equal Exchange; (774) 776-7398


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