Tuesday, 14 August 2012

East End and Billingtons Demarara Sugar

BFTF was buying ingredients for Muffins and 250g Biccies recently and could not find any FairTrade light brown sugar.

So ended up buying non-Fairtrade Demarara Sugar, which has been something of a revelation. The coarser grains mean that is does not melt fully in the bisuits, reduceces flow during baking and reduces the tendency for the biscuits to burn.

Demarara sugar is BFTF's my new best friend.

Having said that, it would still be nice to know that these confections were not being prduced at the cost of poor workers rights in the country where the sugar is farmed.

So, after reading this very interesting report on the sugar industry in Africa, BFTF sent the following emails to East End and Billingtons.

"I have recently tried your Demarara sugar instead of the Light Brown Sugar I usually purchase for baking and found the Demarara to be a fantastic product and intend to switch to Demarara forthwith.

However, I note that your products do not feature the "FairTrade" logo and am concerned that those who produced this sugar (in its country or origin) have not been as well treated as they should have been.

I'm hoping you will be kind enough to provide some feedback on the three questions below, as positive responses will go a long war towards reassuring me that I can buy your product with confidence.

1) What assurance - and what evidence - can you give that you pay your fair share of tax in the producing country

2) Can you guarantee that all the workers producing this sugar, especially seasonal workers, are paid a living wage?

3) What efforts are you making to encourage "Fair Trade" style small scale outgrower schemes?"

Response from East End

15th Aug : A very quick initial response from East End said that "...this sugar which comes from a reputable supplier in Mauritius. We do not carry the Fair Trade logo as generally our customers are not willing to pay the premium for Fair Trade products. However, I assure you that I will have a reply from our supplier to your questions in due course."

16th Aug : Received a further response from East End passing on the following from their supplier :

"I can assure you that the Mauritius Sugar Syndicate, as the marketing arm of the sugar industry, is a non-profit organisation responsible for sales of all locally produced sugars - it subsequently distributes all sales proceeds, after deduction of common expenses, to the producers (including the smallest planters) on basis of the tonnage of sugar produced by each of them. You can ask your customer to visit our website www.mauritiussugar.mu for further information on our organisation."

Response from Billingtons

15th Aug : A very quick response from Billingtons saying "... all of our sugars are full produced at site. We are AB members of SEDEX (Supplier Ethical Data Exchange) and actively ensure high ethical standards are upheld throughout our supply chain through annual audits and visits. As such we can guarantee that all the workers in the supply chain of this sugar are treated well and earn a decent living wage... "

They also sent a copy of their "Code of Practice for Socially Responsible Sourcing", which states that "It is expected that all suppliers adhere to the principles within this Code of Practice, which is based upon the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) ‘Base Code’ and International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions." and, encouragingly, goes on to specifically mention that "wages should always be enough to meet basic needs and to provide some discretionary income."

Incidentally, and somewhat to BFTF's surprise, the code shows Billingtons to be part of the "Silver Spoon" company.

BFTF has been encouraged by the information from both suppliers, and is faced by the unexpected situation of having two options for buying ethically produced sugar.



  1. Good work! I hope you'll get more detailed information from East End.

  2. Billingtons actually do a Fairtrade-certified demerara sugar, see http://www.billingtons.co.uk/home/products/fair-trade-range/fairtrade-demerara-sugar.

  3. Thanks for that info - although, unfortunately, this line does not appear to be stocked in any of the shops local to me.