Scottish fair trade business targeting a 'rice revolution'

A Scottish fair trade business is launching a new rice product this week which it hopes will create a ‘rice revolution’ by persuading consumers to buy ethically and, in turn, help to benefit the lives of smallholders in Africa.

Published 15th Dec 2015
Updated 6 th Oct 2023

Paisley-based Just Trading Scotland (JTS) is releasing its new premium Kilombero rice product to meet growing consumer demand for ethical foods, by opening up new markets in high end, deli and speciality shops as well as larger mainstream retailers.

Picture: JTS

Picture: JTS

The rice itself is farmed across Malawi, one of the world’s least developed countries where around 85% of the population live in rural areas and agriculture accounts for a third of the country’s GDP.

Where previously the product has been sold in 1kg and 3kg catering style bags, the rebranded Kilombero product will be sold in smaller, more convenient 500g and 1kg bags which can stand up on a shelf and are more suitable for high street shops.

Following a £70k investment from Social Investment Scotland, JTS also plans to expand sales across its full product range, by holding more stock to meet the demands of larger retail contracts.

JTS has already built up a successful order book by challenging fair trade shops, charities, churches, schools and other groups to sell 90kg of Kilombero rice - enough to enable a Malawian farmer to pay for one year of basic secondary education for one child.

John Riches, Chairman at Just Trading Scotland, said: “Kilombero offers consumers a whole new way of buying and eating rice. We know that Scots want more opportunities to buy ethically sourced, fairly traded premium products. By purchasing Kilombero, we can all make a huge difference by helping to unlock the potential of people and communities and tackle inequality in Malawi and elsewhere. Many retailers, both large and small, have already expressed interest and we’re confident that we can convert that interest into sales. Hopefully, together, we can all start a rice revolution right here in Scotland.”

“Like many other social enterprises we have found it challenging to secure investment from traditional lenders which is why support from Social Investment Scotland has been so important.”

Alastair Davis, Chief Executive at Social Investment Scotland, said: “Many people tend to think about social enterprises predominantly as public service providers. However, at SIS, we believe that there’s a huge amount of potential in social enterprises creating products for retail to consumers. Just Trading Scotland has done just that.

"It’s an excellent example of using the social enterprise business model to bring a consumer product to market, with the objective of making a significant and measurable social impact. As lenders to the third sector, we would certainly like to invest in more businesses and social enterprises operating within this retail space and hopefully the example of Just Trading Scotland, and other enterprises like it, can inspire others to follow in their footsteps.”

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