Rice is a staple food for humanity, feeding more than half the world’s population. The future of its production is therefore a crucial issue.
Climate change, population growth, sustainability, and growing consumer demands for quality and diversity represent significant challenges for rice producers worldwide. To be successfully addressed, these challenges require innovation, adaptation and proactivity, especially as the 2030 Agenda sets important but by no means easily achievable objectives for rice farming.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a 17-point action plan compiled by the UN with interconnected goals aimed at ensuring a better future for all humanity.
For the rice industry, this agenda outlines both challenges and opportunities, with profound implications for the way we produce and consume rice. In fact, rice production is affected by several global issues, namely food security, water management, climate impact, biodiversity, and sustainable consumption and production practices, which reference several points of the 2030 Agenda.
Goal 2 of the 2030 Agenda refers to the need to end world hunger, achieve food security and promote sustainable agriculture.
Rice has a pivotal role to play here, in the fight against global hunger, in improving product quality and, finally, in promoting sustainable rice farming.
The challenge for rice producers, therefore, concerns not only quantity, but also the quality and sustainability of production. Climate change and demographic pressures pose a clear question: how can we produce more rice more efficiently and without harming our planet?
The answer can be found in technological innovation, in the development of new, more resistant and productive rice varieties, and in advanced agricultural techniques that reduce dependence on fertilisers and pesticides. However, the sustainability equation is not complete unless there is an approach to consumption and distribution that minimises waste and ensures that the rice produced reaches those who need it most.
Goal 6 focuses on water and conserving water resources. Rice farming requires significantly greater amounts of water compared to other crops. Furthermore, the use of fertilisers and pesticides can contaminate surrounding water resources, threatening biodiversity and human health.
Innovation in this area can range from the development of rice varieties that require less water to the adoption of precision farming techniques that reduce fertiliser use to a minimum. Responsible water management not only improves the efficiency and sustainability of rice production but can also bring wider benefits to local communities by safeguarding water resources for future generations.
As for Goal 12, related to achieving responsible consumption and production, the rice industry is faced with the need to balance increasing demand with the need for sustainability. Like many other crops, rice production can generate waste at various points in the value chain, from the loss of rice during harvest and processing to excessive packaging of final products.
To minimise waste along the supply chain, companies can, on the one hand, implement more efficient farming and production techniques and, on the other hand, reduce packaging of finished products.
Furthermore, an interesting strategy for rice producers could be the encouragement of responsible consumption among their customers. This may involve educating consumers on the importance of a balanced diet, promoting rice products that are both nutritionally rich and sustainable, and raising awareness of food waste issues.
Climate change is affecting the quality of life of human beings in an increasingly worrying way, especially in certain parts of the world. The warming of the atmosphere not only causes serious challenges for agriculture but also damages ecosystems with catastrophic consequences for plants, animals and humans.
Climate change is challenging the rice industry in two main respects. On the one hand, rice cultivation, especially when using traditional submerged paddy field methods, contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, especially methane. On the other hand, climate change may threaten rice production itself, through rising temperatures and changes in rainfall.
Different methods of rice cultivation have been shown to produce different amounts of greenhouse gases. For example, rotational irrigation—a method in which water is applied at intervals—produces considerably less methane than traditional continuous submerging. However, this method can also lead to a reduction in rice production.
Furthermore, while rotational irrigation can reduce methane emissions, it can also lead to increased production of nitrous oxide, another potent greenhouse gas. This creates a dilemma for rice companies: how can the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions be balanced with the need to maintain sufficient rice production to feed a growing world population?
In short, tackling climate change in the rice sector is not an easy task and demands a careful balance between environmental and production needs.
However, companies like Mundi Riso, aware of the importance of sustainable agriculture, have adopted environmentally friendly practices. In fact, the company has been certified by the Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA), a tool of the SAI Platform, an organization created by the food industry initiative in 2002 with the goal of promoting sustainable farming practices globally. This system has a checklist that includes 112 questions on social, economic and environmental issues to ensure agricultural production that balances environmental and production needs.
In addition, the Ebro Group, of which Mundi Riso is a part, has created the Rumbo 2030 program: this plan aims to consolidate their sustainable business model and is divided into three main areas of activity: “Caring for You,” “Caring for the Planet,” and “Caring for Food.” Ebro Foods’ motto, “CARING FOR YOU & THE PLANET,” is not just a slogan, but represents the essence of their commitment to sustainable growth and deep social responsibility.