Associates from Mars Food sites in Olen, Belgium, and Oud-Beijerland in the Netherlands visited Pakistan to meet new suppliers of basmati rice
Basmati means “the fragrant one” in Sanskrit. The long-grain rice is grown only in India and Pakistan; so setting up a reliable supply that comes straight from the farmers makes sound commercial sense.
Ensuring high quality was a major goal of the trip. The team spent time discussing quality controls with farmers and auditing their storage and processing facility. “It was great to meet our basmati farmers and visit their fields,” says 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.”
The team selected 27 farmers to produce approximately 2,500 tonnes of basmati rice each year – about 30 percent of Mars Food’s annual requirements for this type of rice in Europe. 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.
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
Additionally, our partnership with Rice Partners Ltd. is supporting research by the Pakistani Agricultural Research Council (PARC) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to develop rice varieties that are more resistant to disease and flooding. These problems cost the country’s rice industry around US$0.5 billion in crop damage and reduced production each year.
Says Dr. Riaz A. Mann, National Coordinator for Rice at the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council: “I am delighted that Mars Food Europe and Rice Partners Pvt Ltd. Pakistan are working closely with the International Rice Research Institute to launch a five-year study for protecting popular rice varieties against bacterial blight and flooding. These problems are threatening sustainable rice production in Pakistan.
“This great intervention from the private sector has the potential to revolutionize Pakistan’s entire rice production system. The improved rice varieties will be adopted by the rice growers within two years, increasing their productivity, incomes and livelihoods.”