Other States

Assam farmers package high-fibre, low-sugar native rice

The farm-to-fork Native Basket, involving some 2,000 farm families, is scheduled to hit the local market on Wednesday with four of 24 varieties of paddy.   | Photo Credit: AFP

More than two decades of an endeavour to save Assam’s indigenous paddy from extinction has yielded a research-backed farmers’ brand of nutritional rice.

The farm-to-fork Native Basket, involving some 2,000 farm families, is scheduled to hit the local market on Wednesday with four of 24 varieties of paddy that were analysed for nutritional value by the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR).

The New Delhi-based is a part of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

All the four varieties on offer – the deep-water Amona Bao and Ronga (red kernel) Bao, the aromatic Kola (black) Joha and Boga (white) Betguri – have low glycemic index. This makes them suitable for diabetic people, the researchers said.

According to NBPGR analysis, these indigenous varieties have an average composition of 9% protein, 5% dietary fibre, more than 23% amylose and 1.5% of total sugars.

“These heirloom rice varieties have twice the protein and dietary fibre and a third of the sugars of milled white rice. These are almost as nutrient rich as brown rice,” farm specialist Manash Baruah said.

He is associated with Foundation for Development Integration (FDI), a 22-year-old charitable trust supported by Biodiversity International and United Nations Environment Programme. This trust formed three Farmer Producer Organisations, 16 self-help groups and an agro-producers’ society that are stakeholders of Native Basket.

“Since 1998, we have collected and deposited to the National Gene Bank more than 3,500 crop germplasm and herbarium specimens. But we felt this would not be enough unless farmers get to know the value of their indigenous crops and are weaned away from commercial crops that have affected the land because of use of fertilisers and pesticides,” FDI’s founder-researcher Rajib Sarma said.

FDI began field trial and seed multiplication in 2017 after the researchers covered 1,800 km in Assam and Nagaland to collect wild and farmed paddy specimens in collaboration with the Botanical Survey of India. The trust has since been working with farmers in three districts of Assam and two in Nagaland.

“We brought under on-farm conservation 318 varieties of six crops including rice, pigeon pea, black gram, green gram, sesame and mustard. Of the 173 varieties of paddy analysed for nutritional value by NBPGR, we selected 24. Our value chain development and market linkages initiative has started with four varieties,” Mr Sarma said.

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Printable version | Mar 1, 2021 9:45:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/assam-farmers-package-high-fibre-low-sugar-native-rice/article33448645.ece

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