Nothing Sweet About Corporate Giants: Oxfam
16 October 2013 at 8:21 am
International aid agency, Oxfam has put some of the world’s food and beverage giants on notice for their role in ‘land grabs’ which see communities displaced to allow increased sugar production.
A new Oxfam report, Nothing sweet about it: How sugar fuels land grabs, criticises multinational companies including Coca Cola and PepsiCo for not addressing the issue and has spurred a global campaign to force action.
The report presents accounts of ‘land grabs’ and conflicts in Cambodia and Brazil involving the companies and reveals that the food and drinks industry accounted for more half of the 176 million tonnes of sugar produced worldwide last year.
Some 31 million hectares, an area bigger than Victoria, was already being used to grow the world’s sugar, much of it in poor countries.
A fishing community in Pernambuco State, Brazil is fighting for access to its land and fishing grounds having been evicted in 1998 by a sugar mill which services Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.
Oxfam Australia is now pushing the campaign in line with its global counterparts.
The organisation’s Chief Executive Helen Szoke recently spoke out on the issue in an opinion piece published in The Australian.
“More than half of the sugar produced is used in processed foods such as soft drinks, sweets, baked goods and ice-cream. So food and drink companies have a huge part to play in ensuring communities are treated fairly,” she said.
“These companies are the world’s biggest producers and buyers of sugar, but they are doing little to ensure the sugar in their products is not grown on land grabbed from poor communities.”
Szoke called on companies to take action by:
1. Committing to zero tolerance of ‘land grabs’ throughout their networks of suppliers.
2. Publicly disclosing who and where they sourced their commodities, publishing assessments about how the sugar they purchase affects local communities’ land rights
3. Use their power to encourage governments and the wider food industry to respect land rights.
“These companies have a huge amount of power and influence. If they act, they could transform the industry,” she wrote.
“Imagine the positive reverberations throughout the food and drink industry if companies like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Associated British Foods came clean on how they are conducting business in poor countries, announcing policies that aimed to protect communities from having their land seized without their consent.”
Global consumption of sugar has more than doubled in the past 50 years, and sugar production is expected to rise by 25 per cent by 2020.