Owner of the world’s biggest rice brand, Uncle Ben’s, and member of the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP), Mars made the announcement today at an annual SRP plenary meeting held in Manila, Philippines.
The SRP set up in 2011 to establish environmental standards for sustainable rice production. Created by institutional giants, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), it describes itself as an alliance that links research, production, policy making, trade and consumption.
The SRP’s standard contains 46 requirements that include productivity, food safety, worker health, labor rights, and biodiversity, and Mars pledged to use the standard as a benchmark to assess its rice supply chains, identifying gaps and developing strategies to improve sustainability.
President of Mars Food Fiona Dawson said: "Through the global standard, we hope to create benefits for all involved from the farmers to our consumers. The benefit for us is that is that we are ensuring premium quality rice, whilst also ensuring a higher income for farmers, and a better environment for current and future generations. It is a truly mutual solution."
The food giant said it had already begun to put the standard in practice as part of pilot schemes in Pakistan and India. In partnership with other SRP members – Rice Partners, LTD, IRRI and Bayer CropScience – it said that 400 smallholder farmers now produce Basmati rice using the correct application of chemicals and harvesting their crops in ways that improve food safety and water quality.
Other SRP members include Kellogg, Syngenta and UTZ.
One fifth of the world’s population depends on rice cultivation for their livelihoods, and the food staple makes up 20% of the daily calorie intake for more than 3.5bn people.