When the endangered Asian Crested Ibis came to a farming island west of Honshu, local farmers have decided to modify their rice fields in order to allow the species feeding liberty. Although the deed isn’t without sacrifice, the farmers now reckon how to make profits from their supposed loss. The local farmers have decided to sell “Ibis stomped” rice though marketing strategies may be more challenging and needs ingenious creativity.
Called ‘Toki’ in Japanese, the Asian Crested Ibis used to be found in China, Japan, Korea, Russia, and Taiwan. But the bird has become endangered because of rampant hunting and destruction of their natural habitats. In Japan, Toki can be found in Sado, an island off the coast of Niigata Prefecture. However, the last toki in Japan died in October 2003 leaving Shaanxi Province in China as the remaining habitat for the Asian Crested Ibis. In order to prevent total extinction, China donated some toki to Japan through the Ministry of Environment.
In order to preserve the endangered birds, the local community with the initiative of Sado farmers has allowed the Asian Crested Ibis, which feed on small fishes and small animals like frogs, to roam and feed on their rice fields. Some parts of rice fields have been set apart for the Asian Crested Ibis. Use of artificial chemicals and pesticides were also halted. Some farmers have also made irrigation channels bare because without concrete walls, fish and insects will not be killed. About 84 toki are now believed to be roaming the island.
According to Manabu Watanabe, an official of agricultural cooperative in Sado, annual rice production of farmers usually reaches 20,000 metric tons. With the allotment of some rice fields for the toki, only 15,000 to 16,000 metric tons can be sold to the market. The 4,000 to 5,000 tons of rice that have been walked on by the toki result in smaller grains compared to those that are not “Ibis stomped.” Watanabe revealed that they intend to “sell all the 4,000-5,000 tons at higher prices” although having “not enough demand” keeps them from doing so.
Despite possible setbacks, city official Masaaki Yamamoto is keen to promote the “Ibis stomped” rice. He believes that the unique quality of the rice, being stepped by an endangered bird, will cause attraction to buyers and will also be translated into sales and promotion of tourism in Sado. Besides selling locally, Yamamoto is looking for potential market in Singapore and Hong Kong. “We want Sado to be widely recognized as a place producing safe rice with which Crested Ibis can thrive,” said Yamamoto.
[via Wall Street Journal]