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Olam Urges International Brands to Adopt New Rice Eco-label to Allow Consumers to Support Farmers and Promote Sustainable Rice Production

Published 09-18-20

Submitted by Olam International

Photo credit: Olam Rice

Olam International is calling for 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 UN 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 – an affordable food that’s unique in its international appeal and the largest food source on earth.

“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 Olam has experienced 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).

The majority of the world’s rice farmers earn just US$2-7 a day and paddy fields emit up to 20% of global manmade methane emissions – a gas more potent than carbon dioxide. 

Paul Nicholson continues, “In 2016 and in partnership with GIZ, Olam was the first private company to trial the SRP indicators with farmers in Thailand. I have seen first-hand what a difference it is making. At Olam we are intent on supporting this initiative to supply SRP-verified rice to allow our customers and partners to re-imagine this sector by improving the livelihoods of farmers and their families, and protecting the environment.

Rice is integral to the global food security system. 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 – are able to gain their own land tenure certificates. It is also enabling freshwater to be preserved as farmers are learning to keep records, to reduce water, to reduce pesticides. Migratory birds can feed in the vital wetlands without risk of contamination or culling, eating pests naturally.

Paul Nicholson continues, “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 between agriculture and local water use.

“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.

Other actions being taken by Olam’s rice team and our partners include:

  • Putting data into the hands of customers through Olam’s revolutionary supply chain sustainability insights platform AtSource, which tracks 150 data points across 9 core sustainability topics, connected to 12 Sustainable Development Goals. In addition to monitoring the farm-level indicators under SRP and any additional requirements from customers, AtSource provides social and environmental footprints for the full journey of the product – through processing and logistics to the manufacturer’s door. Tools include country risk assessments and an eco-calculator that can give carbon, water and land use change footprints per tonne of product, essential when reporting impacts for third party supply chains.
  • Participating in sector-wide initiatives including the Sustainable Rice Landscapes Initiative (SRLI).
  • Through Olam’s Re-Imagineers programme, we are actively exploring opportunities to commercialise rice biomass straw to unlock value for farmers and Olam into packaging and other uses.

Five facts about global rice production

  1. Worldwide, 3.5 billion people consume rice and 144 million family farmers produce rice, tragically some 90% of them live at or near the poverty line – many of them are women

  2. 1 out of 4 farmers in the world are rice smallholders, who earn on average US$2 to US$7 per day from rice

  3. Irrigated rice cultivation uses 30-40% of the world’s freshwater and is responsible for 10% of global man-made methane emissions

  4. Rice production is a leading cause of habitat loss, both in wetlands and forests

  5. Global rice consumption is projected to grow 13% from 2018 to 2027, requiring 500 million tons of milled rice annually

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About Olam International Limited

Olam International is a leading food and agri-business supplying food, ingredients, feed and fibre to 25,200 customers worldwide. Our value chain spans over 60 countries and includes farming, processing and distribution operations, as well as a sourcing network of an estimated 5 million farmers.

Through our purpose to ‘Re-imagine Global Agriculture and Food Systems’, Olam aims to address the many challenges involved in meeting the needs of a growing global population, while achieving positive impact for farming communities, our planet and all our stakeholders.

Headquartered and listed in Singapore, Olam currently ranks among the top 30 largest primary listed companies in terms of market capitalisation on SGX-ST.

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More information on Olam can be found at www.olamgroup.com. Follow @olam

Olam is located at 7 Straits View, Marina One East Tower #20-01, Singapore 018936.
Telephone: +65 63394100, Facsimile: +65 63399755.

Contacts for Corporate Communications
Nikki Barber
Group Head of PR
nikki.barber@olamnet.com 
+44 2074848994, 7568108555

Issued on behalf of Olam International Limited by:
WATATAWA Consulting, 77 Robinson Road, Robinson 77 #33-00, Singapore 068896

Ong Chor Hao                                                               
Deputy Director                                                            
chorhaoo@we-watatawa.com                                       
+65 96272674                                                        

Hoong Huifang
Manager
hhoong@we-watatawa.com
+65 91280762

 Sourced from SRP: http://www.sustainablerice.org

For more information, please contact:

Zoe Maddison Group PR Manager

Phone: +44 (0)78 2590 4234

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Olam International

Olam International

Olam International is a leading agri-business operating from seed to shelf in 65 countries, supplying food and industrial raw materials to over 13,800 customers worldwide. Our team of 23,000 employees has built a leadership position in many businesses including cocoa, coffee, cashew, rice and cotton.

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