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Project September 20, 2021

Sweet and Lowdown: A Tale of Misery and Wealth in the Sugar Industry


From Haitian hands comes American sugar – nearly 200,000 tons of it each year. Imported from the Dominican Republic, the sugar is packaged as C&H, Domino, and other brands owned by America's first family of sugar: the Fanjuls of West Palm Beach. 

The relationship between sugar barons in America and Haitian field hands in the DR, long marked by egregious labor exploitation, remains deeply problematic.  Haitians on the Fanjuls' 240,000 acres in the DR live in inadequate, substandard housing, often without electricity, running water, sanitation, access to schooling or medical care.  Now, monitors from the Department of Labor say they have found repeated labor violations that put the company in violation of the 2009 U.S.-Dominican Republic trade pact, CAFTA/DR.  U.S.-based lawsuits and initial DOL findings also document widespread worker pesticide contamination.

The Fanjuls benefit immensely from the U.S. sugar subsidy program of $.08/lb, which persists due to millions in annual contributions to candidates from both parties.  Economists conservatively estimate Fanjul family profits at $150 million annually, largely from sugar produced by Haitians, whose working and living conditions appear to be violations of Dominican law and the International Labor Organization standards in the CAFTA agreement.