Producer Profiles

COOPECANERA - Cooperativa Cañera de San Ramón

In the San Ramon region of Costa Rica, small-scale sugar producers formed Cooperativa Cañera de San Ramon (COOPECANERA) in 1972. San Ramon was a particularly poor region and members of COOPECANERA faced many obstacles during its early years. Sugarcane farmers found it difficult to turn a profit and earn adequate incomes. Over time, however, members have managed to reduce production costs and increase production, therefore improving profits.

The cooperative still faces some difficult issues, including the migration of urban communities into the region. San Ramon is located 60 kilometers from the capital city, San Jose. Farmers worry that as the city grows, arable land will become scarcer and pollution will take a toll on sugar production. But thanks to Fair Trade, COOPECANERA farmers are able to invest their premium funds in quality production and environmental programs to ensure sustainable futures for the sugarcane farmers and their families. The cooperative sought Fair Trade certification in 2000, striving to strengthen its organizational capacity and seeking better access to the international market.

COOPECANERA now owns its own sugar mill and refinery, enabling members to produce both raw and refined sugars. The cooperative also remains focused on employing sustainable agricultural practices by reducing their chemical use and switching from an all-bleached sugar operation to producing sugar left in a more natural state.


Technical Assistance

COOPECANERA provides a credit system whereby farmers may apply for loans to improve the quality of their sugarcane. The cooperative also provides special assistance to its members during the harvesting season. This additional technical assistance helps farmers increase and maintain their level of production. The cooperative invests over 30 percent of its Fair Trade income in technical assistance programs for small farmers.

Bonus Program

Sugarcane producers receive regular cash bonuses for their production. Because sugar prices tend to be low, sugarcane farmers often must rely on other forms of income to supplement their sugar revenues. But Fair Trade has given Coopecañera farmers the opportunity to invest all of their time in sugar production, because farmers receive cash bonuses that supplement the local market prices for sugar. The cooperative allocates 20 percent of its additional income received through Fair Trade sales to this bonus program.

Environmental Programs

COOPECANERA has invested in reforestation programs and water filtration systems. Given the issues surrounding the encroaching peri-urban areas of San Jose, environmental stewardship is becoming more and more of a priority. COOPECANERA farmers are now investing to ensure that their crops and land are protected from urban sprawl. The cooperative invests 50 percent of its additional Fair Trade income in environmental programs.