Very little research into what hotel guests think about the hotel food supply chain has been published; when diners sit down to enjoy a bowl of rice, the role of the farmer may or may not cross their minds, but we can assume that a majority of hotel guests would support the notion of healthy produce and a fair deal for the agricultural workers involved.

This is now exactly what will happen at the Centra by Centara Government Complex Hotel & Convention Centre in Bangkok, as the hotel is now committed to buying rice that is safe and healthy for their guests and staff, while offering a fair deal to the farmers by cutting out the middleman and buying direct from the rice field.

It is simply what we want to do for today’s environment and people’s health, as much as wanting to promote fair trade. In saying that, we initiated the programme to buy rice directly from the farmers or a sustainable rice-growing community,” explained Boonthrika  Laisomboon, the hotel’s Marketing Manager.

Before we embarked on this programme, we looked into the feasibility and evaluated several factors that will drive the success of the programme. First we checked the amount of rice the hotel consumes each month and made sure that the volume is consistent. Then we explored partnership options, which led us to join the “From Farm to Function” campaign by the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB). TCEB aims to foster sustainable rice farming communities and support them by finding markets. For this year, TCEB has matched us with the THAPTHAI organic rice farmers group in Surin.”

The advantages to the hotel, and the reasons why the THAPTHAI group was selected, are that the rice is 100% organic and the farmers are able to match their production capacity to meet the demand from the hotel, at a price negotiated to suit both parties. As a result of this CSR project, the farmers gain a reliable market and the hotel secures a quality product.

The other reason we are doing this is because we would like to demonstrate the hotel’s good corporate citizenship and raise public awareness about our CSR effort. Starting with rice buying, we plan to buy other agricultural produce under the TCEB scheme in the future. Currently, we are considering the feasibility of buying 100% organic fruits and vegetables to be served in our daily buffet breakfast,” added Boonthrika.

So far, the project has been running for six months, so at a consumption rate of one ton per month, the farmers have already supplied six tons of rice. Guests are not the only beneficiaries, however, as the hotel also uses the rice for staff members in the canteen. As for the wider impact upon the hotel, the rice costs along with logistics and delivery are broadly similar under the new scheme, but there are additional benefits to consider.

Firstly, we have achieved our aim of bringing quality and health to our customers without sacrificing the hotel’s earnings. Secondly, we take part in pushing forward sustainability for the rice growing community, and now that farmers who are members of the THAPTHAI organic rice farmers group can earn a stable income, they start to see a bright future in this partnership. If other hotels join this campaign, it can lead to a changing career landscape for the farmers’ offspring – that is to say the number of people forced to leave the countryside to find jobs in the big cities will be reduced. Finally, we can improve reputation of our hotel through participating in a social contribution activity like this. Today, we don’t serve just rice, but rice with an inspirational story behind every single grain.”  

The bottom line is that the scheme offers a clear win-win scenario. Food prices remain unchanged so there is no cost consideration to be passed on to guests. Payment processes are slightly altered as individual farmers in the THAPTHAI group are eligible for payment, but overall the scheme provides benefits to everyone involved, and the feel good factor of better food and better ethics for hotel guests.