The production and marketing of sustainable forest products: chewing gum in Mexico

Natural chewing gum or chicle represents just 3.5 per cent of the total chewing-gum market, which is dominated by synthetic chewing gum made from hydrocarbons. However, recent interest in sustainable livelihood strategies has opened up opportunities for enlarging chicle commercialisation for what is still a small, niche market. The production of chicle can serve to strengthen forest conservation, and provide regular employment to those dependent on forest products, as part of a range of sustainable forest activities. However, the production and marketing of natural chewing gum has faced several serious problems: producers in Mexico have been organised in ways that enabled them to be exploited both by intermediaries and state institutions, and the processes of certification for organics and fair trade are unwieldy and expensive. This paper suggests a number of ways of addressing these problems.