Writer: Agriculture and Food Cluster Team
Farmers in Thailand are set to produce friendly ‘Hom Mali’ rice for international markets through a multi-national partnership project.
One-thousand and two-hundred Thai rice farmers in a northeastern province, Roi Et, will produce environmentally friendly rice under the “Sustainable Hom Mali Rice” project within the next 30 months from 2018-2020.
The partnership includes Mars Food, Herba Bangkok S.L (Ebro Foods S.A), Thai Rice Department, and the Agriculture and Food Cluster of German’s own enterprise, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.
‘Hom Mali’ in Thai literary means ‘fragrant scent of jasmine’, which describes Hom Mali or Jasmine rice of Thailand.
Anan Suwannarat, a General Director of the Thai Rice Department said: “Hom Mali rice has been declared the world’s best rice and Thailand is one of the world’s leading rice exporters, yet rice farmers are among the lowest earners in the country’s agriculture sector.
“Many Thai rice farmers face rising production costs and fluctuating prices. Under this project, we will join forces in developing a sustainable quality of rice for farmers to produce good quality rice and reduce the cost of production while increasing rice yield as well as quality rice that meets global requirements.
“It is expected that the project will help the farmers to earn additional income in each community,” he said.
The Rice Department is responsible for planning and implementation of the national rice policy and strategy through research and development of rice seed, farming practices, post-harvest and processing, and rice standards.
Under a climate-smart system to mitigate climate change, the farmers of 12 community rice centres in Roi-Et province will produce 3,500 metric tons of Hom Mali rice.
Sineenart Chuichulcherm, a Global Commercial Director of Mars Food said the initiative is part of Mars Food’s journey to source rice from farmers working towards the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) standard.
“We guarantee that we can achieve a more sustainable Hom Mali rice crop in Thailand that benefits all stakeholders – farmers, rice producers, and the environment,” she said.
In 2016, Mars Food reached an important milestone and now all basmati rice is sourced from farmers working towards the SRP standard – representing 10 percent of our overall rice volume.
For Ebro Foods, this project forms part of its commitment to sustainability in the sector since Thailand plays a major role in the rice supply chain.
“Currently a lot of discussions are going on about the sustainability of the rice sectors with the focus on the livelihood of farmers, chemical usage, inclusiveness, food security and the overall condition and well-being of farmers,” said Ignacio Yuste Sanchez, a Herba Bangkok’s (Ebro Foods) Regional Managing Director.
“These issues are not exclusive to smallholders but focusing on them can drive industry change,” he said.
Besides, Mr. Sanchez said that the best way to achieve sustainability in the sector is through alliances, strong partnerships, together with millers and farmers all banding together.
In this “Sustainable Hom Mali Rice” project, the Thai farmers will practice SRP standards and agronomic technologies, earn skills on information and communications technology, work closely and cooperatively among their own farmer groups, and get high-quality seeds.
Besides, the project activities will focus on issues of traceability for food safety and quality while stimulating domestic and international off-takers to procure sustainable rice.
Dr. Matthias Bickel, Director of the GIZ Agriculture and Food Cluster stressed that the partnership also aims to provide access to finance mechanisms and improve the financial literacy of agriculture cooperatives with a focus on gender inclusion to unlock opportunities for women.