A joint program of the Agriculture and Livestock Ministry (MAG) and the Economy and Industry Ministry (MEIC) seeks to promote the production and marketing of pesticide-free rice in the country.
Officials from both ministries recently presented the results of a four-year project developed in Cañas, in the province of Guanacaste, which resulted in a new product they call EcoArroz (Eco Rice).
Project manager Andrés Vásquez developed the organic production system of EcoArroz to “preserve the soil’s natural cycle and respect the ecosystem,” the ministries reported.
Environmentally friendly rice
Vásquez explained that instead of using pesticides to control pests and diseases, the project used plants and insects as natural barriers to protect rice crops. The process also allowed them keep the production cycle as natural as possible, he said.
Farmers used wasps and ladybugs, which feed on the mites and larvae that damage rice crops.
They also transformed farm waste into organic fertilizers and developed an optimized water system for irrigation.
According to Vásquez, contrary to popular belief, the lack of chemicals does not alter the shelf life of rice; “on the contrary, it provides more minerals and the rice is more nutritious.”
The ministries hired a private laboratory to independently audit the production process. PrimusLabs, the selected company, collected rice samples before the harvest. Their analises certified that the rice was 100 percent free of any traces of pesticides.
The pesticide-free certification allowed the project to move to the marketing stage. The organic rice is available at various supermarkets across the country, under the Sabanero EcoArroz brand. Sabanero sales manager Jorge del Pozo said that the retail price is very accessible, considering the high production cost of the product: an 1.8-kilogram bag costs ₡1,540 (approximately $2.80).
Rice is an essential product in the Costa Rican diet, and many families eat it two or three times a day.
Projections from the National Rice Corporation (CONARROZ) state that Ticos are expected to consume 340,000 metric tons of rice in the 2016-2017 rice season that started in July.
Current production supplies just over half of the national demand. Earlier this month, the Agriculture Ministry signed a decree authorizing the import of 73,000 metric tons required to cover the estimated consumption for the first half of 2017.
Economy Minister Welmer Ramos said Costa Rica has committed to develop efficient farming through environmentally sustainable practices.
“We are strongly encouraging innovation and the dissemination of new production processes and practices,” he said.