Olam recognises that rice is about more than the grain on the plate. Our upstream presence allows for traceability and has made us conscious of what it takes to produce rice. As a result, Olam is at the forefront of establishing sustainability standards in rice. Olam is a governing member of the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP), a rice sustainability program Chaired by UNEP. Olam’s goals are to bring sustainability standards to smallholder farms in order to balance the long-term costs with near-term needs to ensure longevity in rice production for future generations. We have assured this by guiding the SRP to adopt a holistic approach including standards related to water use, land use, labour standards, greenhouse emissions, and reducing chemical inputs while maintaining yields.
To ensure that the SRP is useful and reliable, Olam has partnered with GIZ’s German Food Program’s Better Rice Initiative Asia (BRIA) in Thailand. The objective is to train farmers towards sustainable standards and measure improvements. This will allow us to ensure not only the quality of the product we deliver but the quality of the future for farmers where we source.
We are also working in collaboration with international agencies in Nigeria to develop small-scale farmer-based rice production partnerships that can supply local markets and improve national food security in the process. Through these partnerships, farmers are supplied with improved seeds, a comprehensive training package and other required inputs. Concurrently, model farms have been set up as vocational training centres to develop high quality seeds for distribution. 3,000 smallholders are already embraced in our ‘outgrower programme’ with a target of 16,000 by 2018. This nucleus model of a commercial farm supporting surrounding smallholders was described by The Rockefeller Foundation as a “catalytic innovation in African agriculture”. Apart from ensuring better land utilisation, our Rice Partnerships in Nigeria have created rice milling employment for more than 250 people, and generated 600,000 farming man-days. In Nigeria, these efforts have resulted in the doubling of farm yields from 1.5 to 3 tonnes per hectare.