Sustainably Sourcing Rice For The Future
Preserving the rice crop for generations
Rice is a staple for half the global population, so it needs to be protected. As the maker of UNCLE BEN’S®, the world’s largest global rice brand, we are working to create a sustainable rice supply that can help support business growth and the nutritional needs of a growing population.
As always, we’re challenging ourselves to transform how we do business today, to help create the world we want to see tomorrow. And how our products’ rice is grown plays a big part.
Through our Sustainable in a Generation Plan, Mars committed to receiving 100 percent of our rice from farmers working toward Sustainable Rice Platform standards by 2020. We’ve seen incredible progress. Today we’re sourcing 97 percent of our rice this way — up 63 percent from 2016.
The Sustainable Rice Platform
As a proud leading member of the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP), a global alliance led by the UN and IRRI, we’re working with government agencies, private companies, and NGOs like World Wildlife Fund, IFC, Oxfam and GIZ.
To increase sustainably sourced rice and support farming communities, SRP launched the first global standard for sustainable rice in 2015. Members developed a set of criteria for reducing the environmental footprint of rice production and helping people thrive including:
- Food safety
- Worker health
- Labor rights
Researching lower-impact rice
Improving sustainability takes research, which is why we’re partnering with the University of California-Davis and the University of Arkansas to study the “alternate wetting and drying” watering technique. We’ve found it can reduce water use by 30 percent and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent—all without reducing rice yield!
So we’ve introduced this technique to our U.S. farmers, and are doing the same in Spain and almost 5,000 rice farmers in Asia. As well we support rice farmers improving laser levelling, maintaining optimum soil moisture, improving underground pipes and concrete-lined water channels and direct seeding.
And the results
In Pakistan we have seen a 32 percent increase in farmer income and a 17 percent increase in yield.
Muhammad Idris, a rice farmer in the village of Sidham Pakistan, says “I have been a contract farmer for the last three years. They have a quality team that visits us regularly and advises us on what to do and what not to do including pesticide and fungicide usage and timing. Because of this my crop quality has improved."
In the U.S., Jim Whitaker in California has also seen serious improvements thanks to SRP techniques. “Using innovative rice-farming methods supported by Mars Food, I’ve been able to use 20 percent less fertilizer, 50 percent less water and become one of the first U.S. rice growers to sell carbon offsets, using the California Cap and Trade Compliance market.”
As more farmers learn sustainable rice farming techniques—and more manufacturers commit to sourcing sustainable rice—we can greatly improve the sustainability of the global rice supply and make sure this crucial crop is around for generations to come.