MoU signed to support Thai farmers in three northeastern provinces to grow high-quality, global standard-verified Hom Mali Rice
On 15 October 2020, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH through the Market-oriented Smallholders Value Chain Project Thailand (MSVC TH) in cooperation with the Department of Rice, Olam (Thailand) Company Limited and Crop Life hosted a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signing ceremony between smallholder farmers in Ubon Ratchathani province, rice millers and a rice distribution company. The MoU signing highlights the collaboration between key players in Thailand’s rice farming sector in implementing the global standard for sustainability in rice cultivation practices.
Dr Atthawit Watcharapongchai, MSVC TH Project Director, noted that the majority of rice producers are smallholder farmers who often manage areas of about twenty rai but are in a weak position in the supply chain due to lack of access to knowledge, technical advice, quality farm inputs and machinery as well as to financial services.
The MSVC TH project was initiated in 2018 in Ubon Ratchathani, Roi Et and Surin. Farmers joining the project are encouraged to adopt joint management and planning in rice cultivation, utilise seed-dropping technology to reduce costs and lower greenhouse gas emissions, adopt tailor-made fertiliser, stop burning rice straw and practice integrated pest management. These key farming techniques can enable local communities to effectively reduce not only costs but also chemical use in rice farming, while actively improving soil quality and stabilising the ecosystem.
“We believe in the importance of connecting the market with farmers and fully support market-driven production through capacity building among farmers and systemising sustainable rice cultivation practices. The MoU signing today is a key milestone that will enable smallholder farmers in Thailand to enhance market competitiveness and access sustainable market-oriented smallholder value chains,” he said.
More than 10,000 farmers in Ubon Ratchathani and Surin provinces have been trained on the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) Standard for Sustainable Rice Cultivation, the world’s first voluntary sustainability standard for rice. Developed together with supply chain actors, governments, development organisations and the farmers it aims to benefit, the standard enables objective comparison of all rice systems. For Thailand, it provides a framework for continuous improvement that is applicable to both irrigated areas in the Central Plains and rainfed cultivation areas in the Northeast. The MSVC TH project also aims to find markets for 60,000 tonnes of unmilled Thai Hom Mali Rice produced under the SRP standard by 2020.
The Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP), a multi-stakeholder partnership to promote resource efficiency and sustainability both on-farm and throughout the rice value chain, launched its SRP Assurance Scheme as the next step in driving the transformation of the global rice sector. With the SRP Assurance Scheme, rice value chain partners, including smallholder farmers, now have a cost-effective and robust tool to de-risk supply chains, ensure stability in sourcing and enhance food safety for consumers. The SRP Assurance Scheme provides details about the rules for measuring compliance or demonstrating improvements against the SRP Standard for Sustainable Rice Cultivation.
Up to 4,290 smallholders in Ubon Ratchathani and Surin provinces have successfully gone through third-party verification by external auditors with positive results. Since 2019, their accumulative rice cultivation on a total of 72,590 rai (11,900 hectares) of land have been verified and scored up to 93 out of 100 against the SRP Standard. Nearly 60,000 tonnes of rice produced by these farmers is categorised as “sustainably cultivated and grown in compliance with the SRP Standard”.
Narawadee Modenuch, Olam (Thailand) Company Limited, said consumers nowadays give priority to products that have less of an impact on the environment as much as to price, quality and safety standards.
“Rice is the second biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the agricultural sector after livestock rearing. We see an increasing demand from consumers around the world in buying products which are good for them and good for the environment. Especially over the last few years, we have seen some of the largest buyers in the world recognise this trend and to start buying accordingly. With our target of bringing 15,000 farmers into the SRP Program by 2022 in Ubon and Surin, we expect to firmly establish this market linkage,” she said.
“Apart from its unique quality and aroma, Thai Hom Mali Rice is well known and in high demand on the global market. The MSVC TH project will upscale Thai Hom Mali Rice to the next level while helping develop the quality of life for smallholder farmers and reducing environmental impacts via sustainable rice farming practices. Production, marketing and consumption need to move towards sustainability,” she said.
Mr. Tanu Tanhakit, chairperson of Ban Don Moo Sustainable Rice Farming Group in Ubon Ratchathani, said the significant increase in the number of smallholder farmers trained under in the MSVC project from just a few hundred to more than 10,000 within two years reflects their eagerness to be part of the sustainable market-oriented value chain. However, they still need to enhance their skills in adopting new technology in sustainable rice cultivation practices if they are to reduce the impact of climate change from rice farming and expand access for Hom Mali Rice to new global market opportunities.
“Having farmed for generations, I do believe that the SRP Standard for Sustainable Rice Cultivation is a method that will not only enable Thai smallholder farmers to generate sustainable income but also gain access to new global market opportunities for us and the younger generations of farmers in the long term,” he said.