Basmati means “the fragrant one” in Sanskrit. The long-grain rice is grown only in India and Pakistan, so setting up a reliable, high-quality supply that comes straight from the farmers makes sound commercial sense.
The commercial team of Mars Food Europe selected 27 farmers in Punjab, Pakistan to produce 1,000 tonnes of basmati rice in the first year. The selection process was done in partnership with Rice Partners Ltd., a venture set up to support this program by local businessman Aamer Sarfraz. “Mars has been the first major international buyer to engage directly with local rice farmers in Pakistan. We are delighted to work together in building the country’s first direct-from-farm sourcing program, and very excited about the potential impact we can have across the value chain,” says Aamer.
Farmers will receive support and advice from a team of local agricultural experts, to ensure they comply with our quality standards. The team will also help farmers to minimize their use of chemicals by supplying fertilizers and pesticides that comply with strict EU food safety requirements. The farmers will be paid a premium over “typically” grown basmati to incentivize participation. Only deliveries that meet our specification will be shipped to Mars, encouraging everyone involved to make the project a success.
“It was great to meet our basmati farmers and visit their fields,” said Estela Serrano Sanchis, Supplier Quality Assurance Technologist for Food Europe. “Doing it right first time is crucial to improve compliance with our tight specifications and deliver safe product to our consumers.”
Sourcing basmati rice directly from farmers and supporting their development will help us strengthen our supply chain, grow our rice business and offer consumers more specialist rice products. It will also benefit the farmers, our partner venture and the wider communities where the rice is grown.
“The program is excellent for rice growers, benefiting us with pure and high-yielding basmati seed, technical support and offering reasonable prices. The reimbursement of transportation charges is also very important. I appreciate Rice Partners Ltd. for launching this program and improving our livelihoods through enhanced yields, better prices and timely payment.”
Mr. Naeem Akhtar, a farmer who is cultivating 20 acres of basmati rice as part of our program in Pakistan.
The best proof that this concept is working is the increase from 27 to 78 farmers involved in the second year of the program. This has enabled volumes to rise to 3,000 tonnes, representing 30 percent of our annual needs.
In 2013, we plan to build a Rice Development Centre that will provide training and extension services for the local farmers. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Bayer Crop Science are partnering with us to help improve farming practices in Punjab. Says Dr. Riaz A. Mann, National Coordinator for Rice at the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council: “I am delighted that the public sector is working closely with the International Rice Research Institute to identify what is most relevant for the local farmers, while also understanding where the organisations can best play a role in improving the farming conditions and capabilities.” Combining our efforts, we can address some of the root causes that currently threaten sustainable rice production in Pakistan.