They continue to cultivate red rice although many households in the city have stopped using it
Red rice, beloved of Keralites, continues to be harvested in Tiruvallur district in small quantities although availability in the city remains low. The farmers of villages including Medhur, Polur, Panapakkam, Pallipattu, Poonai Mangadu and Podhatturpattu time the crop and the harvest it around Onam to meet the demand from buyers from Kerala.
“It is a good variety and resistant to most pests; it also costs lesser to cultivate, takes less time and also brings in more than our regular varieties like BPT and Rupali. This year, one bag of Rupali paddy is being sold at Rs. 930 but TKM 9 is sold at Rs. 1, 100 a bag,” said M. Selvaraj, a farmer of Medhur village where a few farmers have just about finished harvesting TKM9 paddy. Many hotels use red rice to make idli and dosa batter as it adds to the taste.
However, in recent years, the land under cultivation of TKM 9 variety of rice in Tamil Nadu has come down.
“The State government had in 1992 permitted the sale of mota rice (the fat kind) to other States. After that, many farmers took to its cultivation. But now that has slowly come down as even Keralites have stopped consuming red rice and are having white rice. In the past decade, the cultivation of varieties including CR 1009 have come down to third of what was being done,” said D. Thulasingam, President, Federation of Tamil Nadu Rice Mill Owners and Paddy – Rice Dealers Association.
However, red rice is not widely available in rice wholesale shops in the city. “We consume only red rice. Earlier, it used to be available more freely. But now we are able to buy only branded red rice in department stores,” said Suseela Peter, a resident of Choolaimedu, who hails from Kottayam.
Though many Keralites such as senior citizen Visalakshi Balakrishnan have stopped consuming red rice for various reasons including non-availability and the time it takes to get cooked, many households will definitely have it for the ‘sadhya’ on Thiruvonam day. “I use red rice only to make puttu and idiyappam,” she said.
On Onam day, homes such as those of H. Shankar of Virugambakkam, who hails from Calicut, would have both red and white rice varieties.
“We will have guests over for lunch and they will like to have red rice,” he said.
M. Nanda Govind president, confederation of Tamil Nadu Malayalees Association, said that only those belonging to the older generation continued to consume red rice.
“Back home in Kerala, though our family cultivates red rice, we exchange it for the white variety. Nobody consumes red rice though it is supposed to have health benefits,” he said.
Diabetologist V. Mohan said that the red rice available earlier had more health benefits as it was less polished. “The rice available today is refined grain. Hence, its glycemic index is high,” he said.