Tate & Lyle is a subsidiary of Tate & Lyle PLC, a British multi-national corporation that has been importing and refining sugar for more than 130 years. Producer of the world’s oldest brand – Lyle’s Golden Syrup – Tate & Lyle was Europe’s leading cane producer. In January 2010 it was reported in the Bangkok Post that Tate & Lyle signed a five-year contract with KSL to purchase its sugar output from its plantation in Cambodia.
Tate & Lyle was making two-thirds of its profits from sweeteners like Splenda, as well as starches and ethanol production, when it sold off the remainder of its historic sugar business to American Sugar Refining (ASR) in 2010. The £211mmillion transaction included the company’s European refineries in London and Lisbon and the rights to use the Tate and Lyle and Lyle’s Golden Syrup brands in perpetuity. 1
American Sugar Refining (ASR)
American Sugar Refining, Inc. is a privately held company, headquartered in Yonkers, New York, which claims to be “the world’s largest vertically integrated sugar refiner in the world.” 2 Formerly the North American sugar refining business of Tate & Lyle, before its new owners acquired it in 2001, ASR is popularly known by its ubiquitous American brand name Domino Sugar.
ASR holds Tate & Lyle’s former European Sugar Refining business as a private limited company registered in England under the name T&L Sugars Limited. Tate & Lyle Sugars, as it is popularly known, continues to purchase 100 percent of the sugar produced from KSL sugar in Koh Kong province, Cambodia under the terms of the January 2010 agreement between KSL and Tate & Lyle. According to the Guardian newspaper, 97 percent of Cambodia’s sugar exports went to the EU in 2012 and Tate & Lyle Sugars bought 99 percent of them. 3
The Case Against Tate & Lyle
In March 2013, over 200 farmers from Koh Kong province filed a claim in the UK High Court against Tate & Lyle for the tort of “unjust enrichment” (i.e. profiting from goods produced from land illegally taken by its supplier). Leigh Day, a UK law firm, was retained to represent the farmers.An October 2014 trial date for the case was delayed to allow parties to engage in further negotiations with an aim to reach a fair settlement.
The lawsuit is ongoing…
- Julia Finch and Richard Wray, “Tate & Lyle agrees sale of historic sugar business for £211m,” The Guardian, 1 July 2010. Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/jul/01/tate-lyle-sale-sugar-business. ↩
- ASR Website, About Us – http://www.asr-group.com/about us/ . ↩
- Kate Hodal, “Cambodia’s sugar rush leaves farmers feeling bitter at ‘land grab’,” The Guardian, 9 July 2013. Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/09/cambodia-sugar-land-grab-claims. ↩