By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) has launched a new ecolabel on rice that will help shoppers reduce their environmental impact by identifying rice that has been sustainably produced.
The SRP – a grouping of over 100 public, private, research, financial institutions and civil society organizations (CSO) led by the United Nations (UN) Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)– developed the “SRP-Verified” Label to reduce the environmental impact of one of the largest food crops in the world.
UNEP said that over 3.5 billion people rely on rice as a daily staple, but the crop has an undeniable environmental impact.
“Rice farming consumes up to one-third of the world’s developed freshwater resources and generates up to 20 per cent of global anthropogenic emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas,” the UN agency explained in a statement dated 14th September 2020 – the day of launch.
The environmental protection body in expression of concern on the effect of climate change on rice said: “This life-giving crop will also be the victim of rising global temperatures, with production expected to fall by 15 per cent by 2050 due to climate change, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute.”
The new Assurance Scheme is based on the SRP Standard for Sustainable Rice Cultivation, the world’s first voluntary sustainability standard for rice, the international rice regulatory organization clarified.
It explained that ecolabelling of rice is underpinned by proven best practices and provides a science-based process to assess compliance.
It highlighted the reality that employing best practices in rice farming can reduce water use by some 20 per cent and methane emissions from flooded rice fields by up to 50 per cent.
UNEP disclosed that the scheme will be managed by Germany-based GLOBALG.A.P., which will oversee approval of qualified verification bodies that will be responsible for inspection of producers according to the SRP Standard.
NEPCon-Preferred by Nature, a Denmark-based non-profit organization that supports better land management and business practices, is the first to be approved to perform SRP verification audits, with several others expected to be approved soon, the global authority on environmental protection elaborated.
“SRP was established to address global environmental and social challenges in rice production. The Assurance Scheme offers supply chain actors a robust, cost-effective and transparent path to sustainable procurement. Consumers are increasingly demanding that food is produced sustainably, and now they have a reliable way to choose environmentally friendly rice,” Wyn Ellis, SRP Executive Director, said.
According to UNEP, with the new label, consumers will be able to trace the rice back to its origin country.
It stressed that the scheme will also benefit an entire industry, for instance, by stocking SRP-verified rice, retailers can make significant and measurable contributions to sustainability commitments and climate change targets.
Furthermore, industry actors will also be able to de-risk their supply chains and ensure stability by sourcing through SRP-verified suppliers, UNEP stated.
“Farmers also benefit – switching to SRP practices can boost farmers’ net incomes by 10-20%. With 90% of the world’s 144 million rice producers living on or near the poverty line, this can make the difference between a secure livelihood and a family going hungry,” UNEP declared