San Francisco, CA – October 15, 2009 – Just in time to celebrate Fair Trade Awareness Month, Lotus Foods is proud to introduce to the US market the first rice to satisfy the stringent fair trade, social and environmental standards required for Fair for Life Social & Fair Trade certification by IMO. This ‘Volcano Rice’ is produced by the Simpatik organic farmer cooperative in Tasikmalaya, Indonesia, and it is sold exclusively by Lotus Foods, El Cerrito, CA. It is a delicious blend of popular local fragrant brown rice, red rice and red polished rice for extra nutrition and is good for both people and the planet. The small-scale West Java farm families growing rice on the mineral-rich volcanic soils are using the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), a methodology that enables cash- and land-poor farmers to double and triple their yields while using 20-50% less water, 90% less seeds, and no agrichemicals.
The system of measuring the performance towards the Social & Fair Trade Certification Program allows gradual improvement and demonstration of achievements to the public. Due to the detailed scrutiny of social and environmental issues along the entire value chain from production through processing organizations are cautioned not to expect certification in the first year. “However, the Simpatik farmers passed with high ratings,” says Caryl Levine of Lotus Foods. “They earned almost double the points needed to qualify on environmental issues, in large part due to their use of SRI methods.” These issues include water use conservation, climate change mitigation, composting programs, land clearing and impact on threatened habitats and aquatic ecosystems. Simpatik also got high marks for paying men and women the same wage and providing opportunities for disabled community members. Simpatik’s score card is available at IMO’s Fair for Life website (www.fairforlife.net) under the list of certified operators. Kerry Hughes, IMO´s US representative adds, “From the very beginning, ‘Life’ was in the center of the new IMO program: improving the lives and livelihoods of marginalized producers on all continents, in all societies and in all industries where such marginalization occurs. But ‘Life’ is no privilege of humans; meaningful consideration of the lives of animals and plants as well as their habitats is part of the environmental criteria of Fair for Life, as symbolized by the label’s twin leaf.”
The trading partnership between Lotus Foods and the small family farmers that grow its rice is based on a dialogue of respect and transparency. “Although no formal fair trade rice certification program existed in the early 1990s when we first started working with farmers in developing countries,” says Lotus Foods co-founder Caryl Levine, “we pay a premium price that exceeds today’s standard fair trade practices. None of our suppliers had ever exported rice before and together we have worked to develop the infrastructure to meet the standards the USDA and FDA require for quality agricultural imports. Our mission is to support the rights and livelihoods of smallholder farmers through economic participation in a global and sustainable marketplace.”
Lotus Foods introduced two other rice types this spring that are produced using SRI methods. These include Madagascar Pink Rice and Cambodia Mekong Flower. The Madagascar Pink Rice can now be found in the bulk sections of natural food and specialty stores around the country.
Fair for Life Social & Fair Trade Certification by IMO is now celebrating its third anniversary of certifications. This certification program created an opportunity for producers and products that had not previously been eligible for fair trade certification according to product specific standards. Fair for Life opened fair trade certification to many new producers and widened the traditional fair trade definitions, by providing a stringent standard and certification system that is free of political, religious or economic preferences and that has ‘Life’ in its heart. Fair for Life has already contributed to improved income and livelihoods of thousands of workers, smallholders, and plantation farmers and employees in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas.