If you’re like me, rice is a staple in our diet. It’s affordable, lasts a long time, and versatile. Almost everyone in my picky family will eat rice. Needless to say, it’s a constant on our grocery list.

Lately, I have been buying the large 10lb bags of rice as they have been on sale and are more cost-effective than the small packages. 

Seeing all those large bags of rice at the grocery store got me thinking (uh oh!) about how sustainable rice is? Are workers being treated properly? What about Green House Gas Emissions? So many questions…..

Thanks, Google, you’re a real lifesaver! Again, I find myself down a google rabbit hole that I would like to share with you.

Here’s what I learned about our old pal rice.

Rice Facts

  • Rice is the daily staple of 3.5 billion people around the world
  • Rice production must increase by at least 25 percent in the next 25 years to meet global demand
  • Rice cultivation occurs on 160 million hectares (ha) of land
  • Uses approximately 40 percent of the world’s irrigated water
  • Accounts for 10 percent of global methane emissions 
  • Within Asia, 144 million smallholder rice farmers rely on rice production for food and household income
  • Asia’s rice farmers are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including:
    • flooding
    • drought
    • sea-level rise
    • increased temperatures 

As you can see, there are more than a few challenges that rice farmers have to overcome to produce delicious rice. 

Welcome, Sustainable Rice Platform.

Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP)

SRP is a multi-stakeholder platform of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to promote sustainable rice cultivation. 

It was established in 2011 to promote resource efficiency and sustainability in the global rice sector’s trade flows, production and consumption operations, and supply chains.

The SRP pursues public policy development and voluntary market transformation initiatives to provide private, non-profit and public actors in the global rice sector with sustainable production standards and outreach mechanisms that contribute to increasing the global supply of affordable rice, improved livelihoods for rice producers and reduced environmental impact of rice production. 

How Does the Sustainable Rice Platform Encourage environmental best practices?

  • SRP’s guidelines for sustainable rice cultivation provide a framework for best practices incorporating more than 160 recommended practices developed and approved through an intensive consultative process with SRP members
  • It is complemented by SRP’s Performance Indicators, a set of 12 quantitative indicators used to monitor impacts of the adoption of climate-smart best practices and other field interventions

What about Green House Gas Emissions (GHG)?

  • One of SRP’s 12 Performance Indicators is greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction, measured as the amount of methane emitted per unit of land area
  • This indicator reflects SRP’s priority to reduce methane emissions from rice fields during crop growth in order to decrease the contribution of rice cultivation to climate change

rice farmer

Why Should Rice Farmers Join the SRP?

  • SRP directly addresses GHG emissions reductions in rice fields
  • Smallholder farmers can achieve social and economic benefits when applying SRP practices due to the reduced consumption of fertilizers, efficient water drainage, and other cost-saving measures
    • These benefits may allow SRP models to more quickly commercialize without requiring significant financial support during incubation stages
  • There is consumer demand for SRP-produced and SRP-certified rice
    • Initial findings from a focus group in Vietnam demonstrate a willingness of buyers within domestic and international markets to pay a premium of 18 percent for SRP-certified rice
  • Multinational corporations have committed to buy SRP-certified rice and have set target percentages for the share of rice that is SRP-certified in their supply chains.

What Companies are sourcing their rice from SRP farmers?

  • Mars Food
  • Olam
  • Loc Troi Group
  • AMRU

 What are the results from SRP so far?

Pilot field implementation of the SRP Standard in 2016-17 was evaluated by IRRI, and revealed examples of real benefits to rice farmers and the environment, such as:

  • 20% savings in water
  • 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
  • 10% increase in farmer’s incomes.

How do I buy rice sourced from SRP farmers?

Starting in 2020, GLOBALG.A.P. will manage the SRP verification process and allow SRP verified farms to be registered in the GLOBALG.A.P. database. They will join the more than 200,000 producers with GLOBALG.A.P. certification.

The database is an interface used by many global retailers to track the food safety and sustainability status of the primary producers they source from.

These verified rice farms will automatically receive a number based on the GS1 system and will hereby be uniquely identified in synch with the numbering system used in the entire upstream food supply chain.

rice harvesting

Bottom Line

As it stands now, finding rice produced from SRP farmers may be a tough task at your local grocery store, but hopefully not for long.

Since this is a relatively new program, it will take time to implement and become a mainstream symbol on a bag of rice.

sustainable rice platform

Until you see a SRP certification badge on your bag of rice, just keep buying it like you are now but keep an eye out for that certification because once it is out in the marketplace, you know that it is sustainably sourced rice with lower greenhouse gas emissions than other rice on the market.

Want to know the most eco-friendly rice cooker to cook your awesome SRP certified rice in? Check out this article here.

What’s your favorite type of rice? Let me know in the comments below. Mine’s basmati, just fyi.

Cheers, and have an awesome day!

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