Colruyt will no longer sell the "Collines" rice in its stores. Contrary to what it sounds like, this is excellent news. It is the end of a project that was started in 2006 in Benin by the Collibri Foundation for education in cooperation with Vredeseilanden, Uniriz-C and local farmers' organisations of Kpataba and Tchetti.
The rice cultivation project in the Collines region in Benin was launched to develop local economy. By offering a market for part of the production in the Colruyt stores in Belgium, we especially wanted to stimulate production and improve the quality of the rice so they could meet the demand, on the national and regional market as well.
Based on Colruyt Group's experience, the partners set up an internal audit system. Efforts were made for the quality of the rice, sustainable production techniques as well as social and organisational aspects, conditions that led to obtaining the FLO label (Fairtrade Labelling Organisation). Indeed, such a confirmation makes access to profitable markets easier.
Thanks to these initiatives, production rose spectacularly, from 6,000 tons in 2004 to almost 40,000 tons today. The quality improved considerably a/o thanks to the introduction of a new kind of rice that can now compete with all imported rice.
Although the export for Colruyt was limited, it enabled the producers to become visible and legitimate at a national level. The rice was launched on the market of Benin under the name "Saveur Bénin". The brand is now distributed all over the country and challenges Asian rice. Furthermore, the better quality and higher production resulted in a price increase; the rice costs 60 CFA francs per kilo, improving the quality of life of the producers.
The project also enhanced women's liberation. Indeed, they are particularly specialised in steaming rice. Today, they are experts in making their own rice, without small stones, insects and other impurities thanks to 5 modern steam centres that were built in the region.
Today, now that the rice of Benin found a market on its own territory and that the professionalism of the local producers has been proved, the FLO certification is no longer a must. The volumes exported were not big enough to bear the cost of the label. This is the reason why Colruyt no longer markets the rice from Collines. However, through its Collibri Foundation for education, Colruyt Group continues to invest in the region by means of training courses for young people from the farming families concerned. The programme consists of 3 cycles of training in organic and integral rice cultivation for about 30 young people from the rice farming families of the UNIRIZ-C cooperative organisation.