Thailand praised for expanding export markets for Hom Mali rice farmers

Story and Photos: MSVC Thailand, Agriculture and Food Cluster

Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand –  Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and stakeholders have successfully engaged in making the rice value chain in Thailand more environmentally, economically and socially compatible.

Funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) as part of the develoPPP programme, in cooperation with Rice Department, Olam Agri and Crop Life International, the Market-oriented Smallholders Value Chain (MSVC Thailand) project pursued a holistic approach to support livelihood of smallholder farmers in northeastern Thailand, while establishing long-term networks with government agencies, research and financial institutions. As a result of five-year implementation, up to 19,000 smallholder farmers in northeastern Thailand have managed to increase their net income by 20% while reducing GHG emission by 21%, on average. Of the total, 8,600 were certified according to the SRP standard for sustainable rice cultivation.

These successful outcomes of the project were highlighted during the closing event of the MSVC Thailand project. Representatives from Thailand’s Rice Department and private partners including Olam Agri and Crop Life International joined in the event.

Dr. Apichart Pongsrihadulchai, the former Director-General of the Rice Department and the advisor to the Director-General of the Rice Department said, “The sustainable development and well-being of the Thai farmers are the ultimate goals of the Rice Department. The Rice Department, GIZ, Olam, and other private sector players jointly implemented the MSVC project to introduce the Sustainable Rice Platform’s (SRP) Standards and sustainable practices to rice farmers. Farmers who followed the SRP guidelines were rewarded with a premium price by Olam, a win-win for farmers and the Rice Department. Therefore, I would like to thank the project players as well as rice farmers for their kind cooperation and contributions to Thai rice farming.”

Dr. Atthawit Watcharapongchai, MSVC Thailand Project Director

Dr. Atthawit Watcharapongchai, MSVC Thailand Project Director, said “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 implementation of MSVC project over the past years enables smallholder farmers in Thailand to enhance market competitiveness and access sustainable market-oriented smallholder value chains.”

The majority of rice producers in Thailand are smallholder farmers having rice growing land plots of about 3.2 hectares (about 20 rai) but are in a weak position in the supply chain due to lack of access to knowledge, technical advice, quality farm inputs and fair rice market, let alone the export market.

Hence, the MSVC Thailand project was implemented during 2018-2022 in northeastern provinces of Thailand, namely Ubon Ratchathani and Surin. Farmers joining the project are encouraged to adopt joint and lower greenhouse gas emissions, adopt tailor-made fertiliser, stop burning rice straw and practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM). 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.  

Narawadee Modenuch, Sustainability Manager of Olam Agri
Narawadee Modenuch, Sustainability Manager of Olam Agri, said the project not only contributed to improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers by enabling them to better integrate into the value chain. It also promoted the development of long-term business relationships between farmers, processors, and retailers. High-quality, sustainably produced rice can be sourced in significantly higher quantities. Olam can supply rice according to international standards in guaranteed quantities.

“This project has enabled us to make our entire rice value chain more sustainable and has helped us build important relationships with our suppliers. With GIZ and Thailand’s Rice Department, we have partners who knows the local conditions and helps us find suitable solutions,” she said.
Through the MSVC Thailand project, Olam Agri contributed its expertise in international supply chains, rice processing, and data collection to the project. GIZ was able to contribute its experience and networks from other rice projects in Thailand. The project also supported on finding markets for up to 160,000 tonnes of Thai Hom Mali paddy produced under the SRP standard throughout the implementation years.
Udon Kamwongsa, MSVC Thailand project member since 2019

Udon Kamwongsa, MSVC Thailand project member since 2019, said as an upstream farmer, she always believes in producing safe food for her family members and consumers. Trainings and activities carried out throughout the past years enabled her to learn new skills and practices that she could apply to her family’s rice land plots in Ubon Ratchathani province.

“We also eat rice that we grow. We would like my consumers, to be confident that the rice they eat is of the same quality, safety and sustainability standard, wherever it’s marketed,” she said.

As a certified authorised trainers by the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP), the global multi-stakeholder alliance, to progress resource-use efficiency and climate change resilience in rice systems, she saw a significant increase in the number of smallholder farmers trained under in the MSVC project from just less than a hundred to 19,000 reflects their eagerness to be part of the sustainable market-oriented value chain, while reducing the impact of climate change from rice farming and expand access for Hom Mali Rice to new global market opportunities. ■

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