Co-op Name: ACOZC (ASOCASE)
Number of Producers: 220
Average Farm Size: 7.5 hectares
Source for: 80g Chocolate Bars and Minis
Last visit by Equal Exchange: Equal Exchange and its Canadian sister co-operative, La Siembra, last visited ACOZC in September of 2017.
Interesting Fact: The average age of producers is 50, which has the co-op worried about future farmers. With fair trade premiums and contributing donations, they hope to invest in a mechanical sugar harvester, to reduce manual labor.
Full Profile: The Association of Organic Sugarcane Producers from the Central Zone (ACOZC) is an association of sugar cane producers located in Guarambare, Paraguay, about 22 miles outside of the capital city of Asunción. Formed in 2004 to improve the livelihoods of small-scale sugar producers in the community, the association has grown from 45 founding members to about 200 members.
Before ACOZC, producers sold sugar cane to the local mills as individuals, often at disadvantageous prices. As an organized association, however, the farmers have more leverage. ACOZC represents the interests of it members and negotiates prices with the mills, which means that they get better prices. ACOZC is democratically governed by a Board of 15 representatives who are elected by fellow farmer-members to serve two-year terms. To join the association, each member pays an initial fee of $60 and an annual membership fee of $20. Producers mainly cultivate organic sugar, but also grow crops such as yucca, beans or sweet potatoes for their family or to sell to the local market.
Not only does the organization positively impact the livelihoods of its members, but it also supports the community at large. ACOZC invests Fair Trade premiums into social and development programs such as purchasing tractors, providing technical assistance to members, purchasing school materials for farmers’ families, and supporting a medical and dental center that provides discounted services to association members and their families.