Many smallholders used to be heavily indebted, and the project has helped them reduce their debts. We see to it that the money arrives at the right time so that they can meet their expenses. We guarantee that we will purchase a certain amount of rice that has been set in advance. The supply contracts with the partners cover a period of three years. We pre-finance the contracts 80 to 100 per cent so that the farmers can also rely on being paid at harvest.

Does ‘fair and good’ also count in marketing?
The project is a good opportunity to get in touch with customers, for example when we are asked at trade fairs why we all of a sudden start selling rice mixtures with pulses. Then we can explain that we are encouraging the farmers to grow chickpeas or lentils – to promote soil health and, of course, to improve their nutritional and income status.

The farmers demonstrate a considerable interest. Do you want to extend the project?
It is already quite big – after all, in India, we are now working with 3,500 farmers. If we want to grow there, it will tend to be more in terms of quality, for instance through raising area yield or through the already registered farmers providing more area for rice cultivation. Of course we want to continue to grow and expand our role in the market – but not more than demand will take in the long run.

How do you assess demand?
2016 was a difficult year. At the moment, as far as basmati is concerned, we have observed a slight stagnation, and demand is dropping somewhat because the market demands lower prices. If Fairtrade is too expensive and conventional rice is too cheap, things will no longer add up, and we won’t be able to grow.