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How OLAM used Traceability for sustainable rice production

Basmati Rice. The first associated thought that crosses my mind is - Biryani. And most of us enjoy biryani, I’m sure. But have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes, to serve that one plate of flavored Basmati rice? Definitely way more than what meets the eye.

Case Study

Global rice consumption has been slowly increasing over the years, from 437 million metric tons in 2008-09 to 504 million metric tons in 2020-21. The tiny grain bears quite a large responsibility, with it being the staple food of more than half of the world’s population – more than 3.5 billion people depend on rice for more than 20% of their daily calories. Global consumption is driven by population and economic growth, especially in many Asian and African countries, with China and India, the world’s most populous countries consuming the most. 

WHY THE NEED FOR A SUSTAINABLE RICE PLATFORM 

Rice is one of India’s largest agri-export commodities. This means that huge portions of Indian farmlands are dedicated to growing it. This comes at a cost. Rice needs huge volumes of water to grow: 1 ton of rice requires 3000 liters throughout its growth cycle. This puts a huge stress on the limited water resources that we have access to. Apart from this, rice is a substantial contributor to global warming. According to WRI, growing rice produces methane, that is more than 30 times as potent as carbon dioxide.

Methane from rice contributes around 1.5 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions and could grow substantially.  

These worrisome statistics resulted in the formation of The Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP). It is a multi-stakeholder international alliance with over 100 institutional members from public, private, research, civil society, and the financial sector. SRP works with partners to transform the global rice sector by promoting resource-use efficiency and climate change resilience, both on-farm and throughout the rice value chain. 

The Indian wing of Olam International – one of the SRP members – began the groundwork. Introducing and adopting sustainable practices in rice production is a crucial goal of the SRP, and Olam India was keen on achieving the same. To summarize, Olam is a company that works directly with thousands of farmers across India, and is involved in E2E management for various agri-commodities like coffee, rice, spices, nuts and cotton.  The company’s services include sourcing, processing, logistics and even marketing.  

THE CHALLENGE 

Olam selected Haryana as the first Indian project site to promote sustainability in Basmati Rice production. There were numerous challenges faced: addressing and involving multiple stakeholders in the Basmati value chain; adoption of a more modern record keeping system; achieving traceability and residue-free production on-ground was a slow process. Apart from these, reaching out to the farmer on time; delivering a real-time package of practices during crop production; tracking residue-free produce during sampling & procurement; all these were time-consuming and cumbersome tasks for the project managers involved.   

A HELPING HAND 

At this point of time, Olam involved TraceX to address these issues, using their blockchain based solution. Using sustainability and technology as key enablers, both companies together were able to onboard multiple participants across Olam’s supply chain onto a single connected platform. TraceX provided a one-stop solution, I.e., the Foodsign application for all their multi-application requirements on real-time mode.  This involved: 

  • Data collection related to farmers, crop information, recommended activity updates, follow ups, and even the cost of cultivation at each individual level. 
  • Crop area-wise recommendation of ideal doses of water, pesticides and other inputs for different activities. 
  • Digitization of dairy related activities by farmers, Sampling process collection, Quality assessment, keeping a tab on procurement via the agents channels in real-time. 
  • Tracking the field implementation personnel performance. 

SWEET SUCCESS AND SAFE RICE 

By adopting the TraceX Solution, Olam India was able to reap multiple benefits. Communication with farmers who were grouped in clusters was much simpler now. Audit Data, that was earlier difficult to compile, is now available in minutes. TraceX’s platform also enabled mutual transparency and trust across the value chain. 94% Package-of-Practice compliance was achieved across 12 Krishi shakhi cluster and 250 farmers.  Follow-ups on Field agent targets and output was faster, and this helped them achieve assigned goals in time. Digitizing the paddy sampling processes for MRL detection and follow-up helped procurement happen efficiently, with acceptable grade paddy. 

The farmers who are part of Olam’s sourcing network have also reported increased incomes by as much as 12% as they spend less on resources; they have also recorded a reduction in water consumption and pesticides by ~85% on average. 

Overall, Olam’s collaboration with TraceX has had a threefold impact – social, economic and environmental. Moreover, TraceX’s contribution was in alignment with Olam’s sustainability strategy, minimizing any deviation or wastage of resources, and conforming to the very vision and purpose of Olam

The tiny grain is now not only responsible, but also sustainable.  

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