Group Considers Complaint Against Sugar Giant

A London-based sugar trade association aiming to promote a more ethical and sustainable industry will meet early next month to consider a request from Cambodian farmers that it eject U.K.-based sugar firm Tate & Lyle from the group unless it gives them their land back.

Some 200 Cambodian families accuse a pair of Thai-owned sugarcane plantations in Koh Kong province of forcing them out of their homes and off their land since 2006, sometimes violently, and they hold Tate & Lyle responsible because it buys sugar from the firms.

Equitable Cambodia, a local NGO, filed a complaint against Tate & Lyle on behalf of the families with Bonsucro—the sugar trade association whose members include Coca-Cola and BP—two years ago. Representatives for the NGO and the families attended the association’s last annual meeting in December in London, where Bonsucro agreed to form a task force to investigate the complaint.

Equitable Cambodia executive director Eang Vuthy said Tuesday that he received information from Bonsucro that its board of directors would be considering the task force’s recommendations on Tate & Lyle in early July.

“If Tate & Lyle still refuses to comply, we hope they can be kicked out of the club,” Mr. Vuthy said. “All we want is for Tate & Lyle to return the land to the people and compensate them for what they lost.”

Bonsucro chief executive Nick Goodall confirmed that the group’s board of directors will meet on July 8 to consider the task force recommendations. He said the recommendations would be based both on the families’ complaint and a response from Tate & Lyle.

Tate & Lyle could not be reached for comment.

According to its website, Bonsucro “aims to improve the social, environmental and economic sustainability of sugarcane” with the use of measurable standards. Those standards include a respect for human rights and compliance with local laws.

Though a member, Tate & Lyle’s work practices are not yet certified by Bunsucro.

The Koh Kong families are also suing Tate & Lyle at the High Court of Justice in London for damages for lost farm earnings, estimated at nearly $2.3 million.

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