Grown in the forest regions of Cambodia known for its rare population of the Giant Ibis, IBIS Rice will be available to UK shoppers for the first time in early 2022. Forest farmers produce the rice as part of an innovative farming approach that boosts incomes while conserving critically endangered wildlife. Partnering with UK retailers Planet Organic and Fodabox, the launch will showcase its range of organic jasmine rice products with uniquely Cambodian flavours, from aromatic brown rice to puffed rice cakes infused with the country’s famous Kampot black pepper.
IBIS Rice was founded by the Wildlife Conservation Society with a mission to save the critically endangered Giant Ibis (Cambodia’s National bird). Thought to perhaps be extinct for 50 years, conservationists rediscovered the Giant Ibis in 1993 in a dry tropical forest area vital for many endangered species (known as the Cambodian Northern Plains). The birds were living near remote farming communities growing heritage varieties of jasmine rice, facing a growing threat of habitat destruction as a result of farmland expansion, poaching and illegal logging.
Recognising the central role that these farming communities played in the future of these forests as well as their economic vulnerability (due to limited access to market and unclear land tenure), the team sought a way to empower farmers to protect wildlife whilst lifting them out of poverty. And thus, IBIS Rice’s wildlife-friendly farming model was born.
The IBIS Rice farming model is defined by three principles; organic farming, zero deforestation, and zero poaching. IBIS Rice set about working with communities to follow these standards by developing land-use plans to help secure their land use and improving rice production whilst maintaining traditional practices to produce the purest and finest jasmine. Every rice cycle involves robust and comprehensive monitoring and certification processes (involving farmers, community groups, agronomists, conservationists, biologists and international auditors). Tools from community-reporting to satellite imagery ensure compliance to the strict conservation and organic standards. In return for their adherence to the wildlife-friendly rules, farmers are paid up to 70% above market price with a guarantee that all of their rice will be bought. Today, IBIS Rice works with nearly 1,800 farming families to protect over 500,000 hectares of forest.
After 10 years of testing and perfecting products and testing the conservation model, IBIS Rice now has big ambitions for the UK market.
“We want to become the best known and most loved organic rice brand in the UK and in doing so take our customers on a journey to deliver a bright future for the people and wildlife of Cambodia’s Northern plains,” says Nicholas Spencer, IBIS Rice CEO. “We are launching with partners that share our passion and vision, which is really important to us. We manage every grain from the farmer's house to the final pack, this means we are able to deliver real impact to farmers and forests, the finest quality products and still retail at the same price as other organic brands. There is growing consumer awareness in the UK market around how food production impacts our environment and we do see retailers and consumers making choices to reduce those impacts. We see IBIS Rice as a way for consumers not just to reduce negative impact but participate in real solutions for conservation.”
IBIS Rice has also reached out to Wildlife Champion, Campaigner, naturalist and bird-lover, Chris Packham to help get the message out there. “The Giant Ibis is a mysterious and unique bird that is reliant on this last remaining habitat for its survival. What’s great to see is farmers are so engaged in protecting them and that we here in the UK can support that by eating delicious organic rice. I’ll be trying some Cambodian recipes for sure and will be following this conservation effort for years to come.” Said Chris Packham
The launch comes in advance of a major meeting on biodiversity, expected to take place in 2022, during which 190 countries worldwide, including the United Kingdom, are expected to sign a treaty to protect endangered plant and animal species. It also comes as consumers pay closer attention to the impact of their grocery store purchases on the climate and environment.
IBIS Rice is an ethically-driven conservation enterprise working with forest farmers to protect the ecosystem while growing wildlife-friendly premium organic jasmine rice, grown in areas protected for their biodiversity value in Cambodia. The concept was developed by The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in 2009 and in October 2017, The IBIS Rice Conservation Co., Ltd was incorporated. Now it is protecting 500,000 hectares of precious forest wetlands, increased the incomes of over 1,500 rice farming families and is conserving more than 50 endangered species (including the critically endangered Giant Ibis – Cambodia’s national bird).
Contact: Nicholas Spencer
FodaBox - formerly BoroughBox, is The Home of Independent Food and Drink. Their online marketplace offers a digital space for independent producers, creators and suppliers to reach thousands of customers everyday. They are a passionate foodie community, providing wonderful customers a large selection of high-quality online products, helping them explore and enjoy the finest food and drink from thousands of independent producers via www.FodaBox.com.
Contact: Leigh Austin
Planet Organic opened in 1995, the first shop to be certified by the Soil Association. Planet Organic continues to work closely with them to certify that their fresh produce, brand products, all the food cooked in their kitchens, juices, smoothies and coffees made in store are organic and natural. Planet Organic offers a wide range of health & wellbeing products to live an active and well-balanced life. To them, health means providing organic, natural and sustainable products that you can trust, advice and guidance from trained experts, and acting sustainably and ethically as a business. The trend-setting health and wellbeing retail chain has 14 stores across London and delivers nationwide via its website: www.planetorganic.com.
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