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.
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