I was invited by the Noorderlicht Foundation to take part in The Sweet and Sour Story of Sugar, a group project analyzing globalization from the point of view of a single, though very familiar, commodity: sugar. My first assignment was in the Netherlands, where I documented labor conditions of farmers in the local sugar industry.

I was very impressed to notice that very few workers could tend to vast fields and collect very large quantities of sugar beet. With Brazil’s cane cutters in mind – a few months before I worked on another story about the production of bio-ethanol from sugar cane – the contrast with Dutch farmers could hardly be starker. The constant contact with the elements of nature had been replaced by a comfortable isolation inside the vehicles used to work the land and harvest sugar beet. Dutch farmers got in contact with the ground and their crops only at intervals, when having their meals or before and after their working sessions.

Sugar beet production in the Netherlands is as highly mechanized as sugar cane production in the state of Sao Paulo, but the land isn’t regarded as a source of wealth as in the former colony. While I was in one of the Dutch farms, the farmer was visited by his son, who now lives in the nearby city and studies at the local university to become an architect. Being an only son, the land owned by the family will be sold when his father retires and sugar beet is unlikely to be grown there any longer.

Also see related project Bitter Harvest.
 

The Sweet and Sower story of sugar
The Sweet and Sower story of sugar
The Sweet and Sower story of sugar
The Sweet and Sower story of sugar
The Sweet and Sower story of sugar
The Sweet and Sower story of sugar
The Sweet and Sower story of sugar
The Sweet and Sower story of sugar
The Sweet and Sower story of sugar
The Sweet and Sower story of sugar
The Sweet and Sower story of sugar
The Sweet and Sower story of sugar
The Sweet and Sower story of sugar
The Sweet and Sower story of sugar
The Sweet and Sower story of sugar
The Sweet and Sower story of sugar
The Sweet and Sower story of sugar
The Sweet and Sower story of sugar
The Sweet and Sower story of sugar
The Sweet and Sower story of sugar