Market and value chain analysis of the sugar cane sector in El Salvador

The Central Cooperativa Agropecuaria is a cooperative society with limited liability (Spanish acronym: CCA de RL), legally established on April 27th, 1994. It is a second-tier organization with eleven member cooperatives that are situated in six different municipalities along the coastal area of the La Paz department. Nine of them are agricultural cooperatives, and two are savings and credit cooperative organizations (SACCOs). Eight agricultural cooperatives produce sugar cane and one produces grains; all of them consist of family farmers. Seven have collective management of a small herd of dairy cows. The aggregate affiliation to the cooperatives amounts to 1,120 households.

ESFIM supported CCA in its research about the way the sugar cane value chain works, focusing on the identification of competitive and sustainable strategies that in time will strengthen egalitarian production and marketing. This has been done from the perspective of the development of a joint marketing strategy, enabling the CCA to set up processes of integration for the formulation and achievement of common goals.

Since sugar cane production is being internationally questioned because of its environmental consequences, the study included an environmental impact assessment of conventional production systems compared with an assessment of an alternative system of production that is certified by (one of) the main certification labels that exist in the country. The conditions were evaluated under which three production models can reduce their environmental impact: conventional production, certified non-organic production and organic production.

In view of the present conditions of the agricultural sector in El Salvador, the following conclusions were drawn:

  • Sugar production is an activity that has functioned for a long time in El Salvador and, it would seem, will continue to do so.
  • Sugar production is an economically profitable activity that makes an important contribution to the resilience of the cooperatives.
  • The sugar sector has to look for a sustainable production path in order to stay competitive.
  • The demands of the international market show that there is a tendency towards buying inputs produced under internationally accepted norms.
  • A production-oriented mentality prevails with technical advisors and producers, focusing on cost reduction rather than on awareness of damage to the environmental balance.
  • The agricultural workforce prefers, for reasons of ease in harvesting, to keep using traditional harvest methods.
  • Certification should be realised within a context of entrepreneurial production with social responsibility.
  • The government has to strengthen the producers and raise their consciousness, and should help to design strategies that make it possible to make progress in the “green harvest” programme that recently has been initiated, but still lacks wide acceptance.