Stratford ‘Sugar inspector’ calls for end to land grab deals

Shenan Perera with other Oxfam supporters outside Coca-Cola

Shenan Perera with other Oxfam supporters outside Coca-Cola - Credit: Archant

A man from Stratford has fronted a campaign alongside protesters wanting an end to companies buying sugar from land which has been “grabbed”.

Shehan Perera, 27, of Romford Road, dressed as a “sugar inspector” outside the head office of drinks company Coca-Cola, in Hammersmith, last week, to support Oxfam’s Behind the Brands campaign, which is petitioning against land grabs.

The campaign looks at how Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Associated British Foods obtain sugar from companies that have taken land from farmers in countries such as Brazil and Cambodia.

Shehan said: “I wanted to come along today as the big food and drink companies have a responsibility to ensure the sugar they use in products isn’t grown on land that has been grabbed from poor communities.”

Shehan and representatives from Oxfam met Coca-Cola officials, who expressed sympathy towards people whose lives had been damaged by the dispute and pledged a policy review.

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A spokesman from Coca-Cola said: “Through our Sustainable Agriculture Guiding Principles, we are asking our suppliers to recognise and safeguard the rights of communities to maintain access to land and natural resources.

“While the Coca-Cola system does not buy sugar directly from any suppliers in Cambodia, we have agreed to convene a facilitated stakeholder dialogue to discuss Oxfam’s overall findings.”

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Mark Goldring, chief executive at Oxfam, said: “We all need reassurance that what we consume is not contributing to the world’s most vulnerable being evicted from their land without consent or compensation.

“Large corporations must take responsibility to ensure their goods are not tainted by this scandal happening in remote places many miles from the board room.”

The global sugar trade is worth an estimated £29billion, with 176 million tonnes of sugar produced in 2012 and production predicted to rise 25 per cent by 2020.

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