Global methane emissions from agriculture are dramatically increasing, but solutions are being developed to combat the trend, including initiatives like the “Sustainable Rice Platform”.
Last year, the world’s first “sustainable rice” in accordance with the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) standard, was produced in Ubon Ratchathani province, with promising results.
“Farmers have achieved an additional 20 to 25 per cent profit,” says Dr. Matthias Bickel, GIZ Project Director. “Rice quality was better, and farmers used fewer seeds, less fertilizer and fewer plant protection products.”
In addition, greenhouse gas emissions were 26 per cent lower, and water consumption was also reduced.
Progress should be quick: Kellogg’s and Mars, two major US food companies, have announced that as of 2020 they will buy only SRP standard rice. Tens of thousands of tons of SRP standard rice will need to be produced to meet this demand, and Thailand is the key.
“Only six per cent of rice consumed globally is traded internationally, but a quarter comes from Thailand,” says Dr. Bickel.
The question remaining is why it took so long to develop and implement a sustainability standard for rice given that both farmers and the global climate benefit from it?
“Until five years ago it was impossible to introduce a major initiative in the rice sector. Rice is a very political product in many countries,” says Dr. Bickel. “In Thailand, only since the elimination of subsidies for rice has the door opened for new initiatives in the sector.”
Additionally, public pressure has been lacking, “contrary to palm oil, for example, sustainability in the rice sector is not perceived as important for either producers or consumers.”