Thursday, December 15, 2016

Vietnam contract farming firm partners with IRRI to achieve sustainable rice production

An agreement between Loc Troi, IFC, and IRRI signed during the SRP Annual Plenary Meeting in Vietnam seeks to produce sustainably certified rice.

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—About 4,000 Vietnamese farmers are expected to be compliant with the global standard for sustainable and more efficient rice cultivation by the end of 2018. This is the goal of an agreement between the Loc Troi Group, the International Finance Corporation, and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) signed on 7 December.

"Specializing in contract farming, Loc Troi wants to be among the first companies to produce sustainably certified rice," said Dr. Sarah Beebout, an IRRI scientist involved with the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP).

SRP is a global alliance of agricultural research institutions, agri-food businesses, public sector and civil society organizations convened by the United Nations Environment Programme and IRRI to develop innovative solutions to critical sustainability challenges facing the global rice sector. The SRP Standard for Sustainable Rice Cultivation uses environmental and socio-economic benchmarks to maintain yields for rice smallholders, reduce the environmental footprint of rice cultivation, and meet consumer needs for food safety and quality.

"As Loc Troi ramps up its production for export, it sees the environmental issues as important," Beebout said. "We don't have a final answer yet on how high you have to score in each of the indicators to get certification—that's still in process—but the company is already getting in on the front to show it can make steady improvements in each of the benchmark areas."

Farmers can be encouraged to follow the SRP standards because one of its indicators is profitability. "We're coming from the assumption that farmers aren't going to do anything that decreases their profitability for the sake of anything else," explained Beebout. "So the question is can we increase the other indicators while keeping profitability high?"

From December 2015 to April 2016, 50 farmers each from Dong Thap, An Giang, and Kien Giang in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta initiated the first season’s pilot testing of SRP Standards. Technical support and training was provided by Mr. Joel Janiya, IRRI extension agronomist. The pilot test will run for another season to complete the validation but the farmers decided to continue implementing the SRP Standard to produce “safe” rice.  

For the next two years, Beebout and other IRRI scientists will visit project sites in the Mekong Delta to support Loc Troi’s technicians and participating farmers on the proper implementation of the Standard for Sustainable Rice Cultivation. Aside from the technical support, the institute will also help Loc Troi's extension system set up a training program for the 4,000 farmers through IRRI Education

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