The Ortuño family operates the ASSUKKAR sugar cane plantation in Costa Rica. For many years, the Ortuños have supported their workers by paying substantially higher wages than other sugar cane producers in the region. Additional social benefits are a medical care system for the workers and their families and the financial support of schoolchildren.
The special cultivation of organic sugar cane
Organic sugar cane is grown in crop rotation with beans, fallow land or greenland. Generally the sugar cane is on the field for around 7 years. The integration of green manure and livestock manure allows for a better nutrient cycling in the soil and improves both soil fertility and the health of the sugar cane plant.
Harvesting of sugar cane
The harvest time depends on the sugar content and the degree of maturity of the plants. Here, in Assukar, the 2 meter tall sugar cane plants are cut by hand rather than being burned down as is the case in conventional sugar cane cultivation. The stalks are cut directly above soil level and just below the sugarless leaves. The leaves are mulched on the field and serve as protection against soil erosion and as green manure.
This harvest procedure regenerates the soil and protects animals and the environment. The stalk stubbles sprout again and after 12 months the next harvest can be brought in.
Sugar cane is pressed and the resulting sugar cane juice (a popular cold drink) gets concentrated through evaporation. The concentrated juice is stirred until the mass crystallizes. In the end it is ground to sugar. The entire processing is very gentle so that the valuable sugar cane minerals are preserved.