To some, this new rice variety could be a time-saver. But to most people struggling to make ends meet, “no cook” rice is a life-saver.
In early September 2009, the world got wind of the news that Indian scientists had developed a new rice variety that does not require fire to cook. It simply needs to be soaked in water and “voilà!” the rice is ready to be eaten. Now, in countries where a majority of the population suffers from poverty and malnutrition, no-cook rice would help poor families ease hunger pains, especially those who live in rural places where sources for fuel are relatively scant.
Commonly known in India as Aghonibora, no-cook rice was bred by Titabar Rice Research Station of Assam Agricultural University and worked on by the Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI). According to Dr. Tapan K. Adhya, CRRI director, the Institute started working on this rice in 2007. He said they got the idea from soft rice called “komal sawl,” which has been known for quite some time in Assam, the northeast province of India, where the climate is temperate. This variety has not been grown outside the northeastern region. Recognizing its potential and benefits for rice consumers, CRRI improved the variety, which can grow in the hot and humid climate of Orissa—a state on the east coast of India.
Since field trials of Aghonibora were already positive, Dr. Adhya said that it could be grown in other areas that have similar weather conditions, including Southeast Asian countries. “For the moment, we plan to grow the variety in similar agroclimatic areas of Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, and Bihar states of the country,” he added.
Aghonibora is already a released variety. However, its seeds are still insufficient for it to be distributed to farmers. Dr. Adhya and his team hope to make the variety available in 2010 when they will have ample seeds for farmers to use. Developed with the lower income group in mind, Dr. Adhya believes that this variety will not cost more than ordinary rice. First, planting Aghonibora will not require any special treatment or inputs; second, with its improved yielding capacity of 4.5 tons per hectare (on average based on experimental conditions), enough stocks will be available for consumers.
CRRI is now also testing other promising “komal sawl” varieties and hopes to develop other cereal products that will benefit more consumers.
Ms. Reyes is the managing editor of Rice Today