Olam urges adoption of new rice eco-label to support farmers and promote sustainable rice production

Olam International is encouraging retailers and food brands to back the new Sustainable Rice Platform-Verified Assurance Scheme and consumer pack label, which will allow consumers to choose products that directly support efforts to increase farmer incomes and reduce the environmental impact of rice production.

Speaking ahead of the United Nations Climate Week, Paul Nicholson, head of rice research and sustainability for Olam’s global rice business, said: “Unlike crops such as coffee and cocoa, consumers have no awareness of the sustainability issues associated with rice, and therefore, no impetus to change them. This label can help galvanise consumer action behind rice.

“I know that a label cannot transform a sector overnight, but it can give consumers a chance to catalyse real change. It can give brands a purpose-driven marketing campaign and allow brands and retailers to lead from the front. As Olan has experience through our own farmer engagement programmes, the SRP Standard works: farmer incomes are increasing by 10-20% while methane emissions are reduced by up to 50%. Now with the Assurance Scheme, it will catalyse both ends of the value chain for greater scale.”

The SRP-Verified Label has been developed by the Sustainable Rice Platform, a grouping of over 100 public, private, research, financial institutions and civil society organisations led by the development agency Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

Nicholson continued: “At Olam, we are intent on supporting this initiative to supply SRP-verified rice to allow our customers and partners to reimagine this sector by improving the livelihoods of farmers and their families, and protecting the environment.”

Rice is integral to the global food security system. According to Olam, 144 million households are growing the world’s rice, yet 90% are living at or near the poverty line.

Through SRP, women – often the main labourers – will be able to gain their own land tenure certifications. It is also enabling freshwater to be preserved as farmers are learning to keep records, to reduce, to reduce pesticides. Migratory birds can feed in the vital wetlands without risk of contamination or culling, eating pests naturally.

“Our team in India is working with a community who had drawn so much groundwater for irrigation that their community water-source has turned saline. Through the SRP Standard, we are helping them to reduce water use and recharge the local aquifer to address the balance agriculture and local water use,” Nicholson concluded.

“Thanks to partnerships with GIZ, as well as the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), International Finance Corporation (IFC) and respective governments, we are currently providing SRP Standard training to about 35,000 farmers in Nigeria, 750 in India, 10,000 in Thailand and 4,000 in Vietnam. But our vision is to see the SRP Standard scaled by the sector so that the label is just as accessible on consumer packs in those domestic nations as it is in international markets.”