Riceberry rice – A nutritious gift from thailand to the world
Walking along the busy streets of Bangkok, it isn’t long before visitors spot non-GMO, deep purple-black organic Riceberry rice being served in trendy restaurants. This breed of rice is Thailand’s latest “superfood,” and is emerging as the trendiest rice in the region.
The Emergence of Riceberry Rice
Thailand is home to more than 3,500 varieties of rice. Rice is the essence of Thai life, a national symbol, and the country’s top agricultural export. In 2016, Thailand supplied 23.7% of global rice exports. At USD 4.4 billion, the country is the world’s second largest rice exporter in dollar value. While jasmine rice is currently the largest type of rice export in Thailand, demand for more nutritious Riceberry rice is gradually increasing in both domestic and international markets.
Originally founded by Bangkok’s Kasetsart University in 2012, Riceberry rice is an innovative cross-breed of Jao Hom Nim (non-glutinous black rice) and Dawk Mali (jasmine or fragrant rice). It is well-known for its richness in nutrients and minerals, which aids in digestion and can lessen the risk of some health complications such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and cancer. In addition, the rice has a high level of anthocyanin and lipid soluble antioxidants which helps in slowing the aging process.
Organic Rice Boosting the Economy
Riceberry rice not only benefits the health of consumers, but also farmers and the Thai economy. The price of Riceberry rice is roughly two times the price of conventional white rice, and it is estimated that farmers who switch to organic farming typically boost their incomes by 10%-15%, according to Mr. Vitoon Panyakul, head of the nationwide Green Net Cooperative, a social enterprise which works to link sustainable farmers with consumers.
Organic foods and products are widely recognized as a booming industry. Valued at USD 15 million in 2016, organic rice is the largest sector, accounting for 65% of the total demand for organic products in Thailand. Given its high quality and increasing popularity, these products are also being sold in large supermarkets internationally, including Whole Foods and Walmart in the US.
Meeting the Increasing Demand
“Production of organic food, particularly rice, has grown at an annual average of 8% in the country over the past five years, with more than 13,150 farms engaged in the practice in 2015”
– Mr. Vitoon Panyakul, head of the nationwide Green Net Cooperative
While demand for this organic rice continues to increase, the supply side also presents huge potential. The Ministry of Commerce aims to increase the total plantation area all over Thailand for the Riceberry rice variety to reach 20,000 rai (3,200 hectares) by next year. In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture has a more ambitious plan laid out in the Second National Organic Agriculture Development Strategy released in April, which targets over 162,000 hectares of land to be dedicated to organic rice production by 2021.
With supportive government initiatives and dramatically rising demand of organic rice, Thailand will no doubt be able to secure its position as a leader in providing rice to the global market. Thai farmers, commonly known as the backbone of the country, also see a bright future ahead with the strengthening of a core agricultural product in the Kingdom.