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NATIVE’s success story: 15 000 ha of sugar cane 30% more profitable thanks to organic culture

4. Environment

Biodiversity and sustainable resource management


Native is a brand of Brazilian family group: Balbo, established in 1946 in the sugar sector. Since the 60s, the agricultural context is the Green Revolution one, which claims the development of large-scale monocultures and increased yields thanks to chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and modified seeds. In the early 80s, the sector has experienced a major economic crisis, due to increased prices of chemicals on the one hand, and great fluctuations of sugar price on the other hand.


  •   Be less dependent of sugar price and find new sources of profitability.
  •   Prove that the large-scale agriculture can be more environmentally friendly AND wealthy.
  •   Find a way to avoid burning the sugar cane fields.


CEO Leontino Balbo Jr., enters the company in 1984 early in his career during the hard times of the company. He soon convinced his manager, through a study that mechanical harvesting would reduce costs. It is on this premise that in 1987 the project "Cana Verde" (Green Cane) was launched.

The principles of the "Cana Verde" project:
- 100% mechanical harvest (vs. manual) with the cane feet cut after each harvest (vs. burning) which led to working for several years with its supplier to design the perfect machine. The fields have then been redesigned to optimize the path for machines: 1 200 kms of corridors have been changed. 
- Biodiversity expertise (vs. chemical) to control insect populations (eg dispersion of 1200 wasps / ha to eat the moth - insect that eats at the sugar cane) + use of cut leaves after harvest to protect the soil and feed it. Several years of experimentation were necessary to measure and compare different methods.

The different steps: 
- 1993: first crop of San Fancisco’s plant: 27 T / h = 30% more than conventional manual harvesting. (Today: 70 t / h for 6 million T per year, all plants united) 
- 1997: Creation of the commercial brand "Native" to market its products and create their own opportunities for its production of organic sugar.
- Opening of its plantations and factories to hundreds of visitors from the entire world. 
- 2001: Portfolio diversification of its manufactured organic Native products: sugar, coffee, biscuits, chocolates, etc. to support the development of other organic products, even if 90% of sugar sales are mainly for organic industrial brands. 


  •   95% of the Brazilian market and 30% of the global organic sugar market. (through 67 countries)
  •   Since 1997: +30% turnover per year
  •   23% more productive than conventional sugarcane culture => the most productive in the world. Margins 32% higher, and complete independence from sugar price.


  •   Native influenced the creation of 29 companies according to the UN. > 340 species of animals live in plantations (45 were endangered)
  •   Improved working conditions for employees as well as their health.
  •   Removal of chemicals and burning: - 30 000 t of CO ² per year
  •   Sugarcane feet lifetime of 7 years in organic vs. 5 years traditionally 


Leontino BALBO - intervenant au World Forum Lille 2008

Mise à jour le 20/05/2016

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