Big food and drink companies urged to act to stop conflicts over land as global sugar production continues to soar


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.

"Our world's sweet tooth is fueling a serious global injustice called land grabs," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. "Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Associated British Foods are among the world's biggest buyers and producers of sugar, but today they are failing to do enough to ensure the sugar in their supply chains or operations does not come from land grabbed out from under the world's poor communities."

Land grabs happen when local communities that rely on land for their livelihood are evicted without consent or compensation. Oxfam's "Behind the Brands" campaign warns 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. Today, more than 77 million acres, an area the size of Italy, are already being used to grow our sugar, much of it in the developing world.

Oxfam outlines evidence of land grabs and conflicts in Cambodia and Brazil in today's report. This includes 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, which provides sugar to Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. 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. In Sre Ambel District in Cambodia, 200 families are fighting for land from which they were evicted in 2006 to make way for a sugar plantation. The plantation has supplied Tate & Lyle Sugars, which sells sugar to franchises that manufacture and bottle products for Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.  Associated British Foods, 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. The companies are urged to publicly disclose from 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 percent of the global soft drink market, and its portfolio of 500 brands includes Diet Coke, Fanta, and Del Valle juices. PepsiCo controls 18 percent of the soft drink market and has a portfolio of 21 brands including Pepsi, Tropicana, Doritos, Lipton Teas and Walkers.  Associated British Foods is the world's second largest sugar producer and the owner of popular brands such as Silver Spoon Sugar, Ovaltine, Kingsmill and Patak's.

"Today, we urge the consumers of Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Associated British Foods products to call on these companies to take urgent action to stamp out land grabs," said Offenheiser. "Given their power and influence, these three companies must work to transform industry standards to prevent these injustices from continuing."

Press contact

For more information, contact:

Laura Rusu
Former Associate Director of Media and Public Relations
Washington, DC
Cell: (202) 459-3739
Email: [email protected]

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