Rice (Oryza sativa) is a member of the grass family, one of the three most important food crops in the world, forming the staple diet of 2.7 billion people. There are three main types: Indica (long grain), Japonica (short grain) and Javanica, which falls somewhere between the other two. Japonica rice varieties are high yielding and tend to be resistant to disease. Javanica types of rice fall between Japonica and Indica varieties in terms of yield, use, and hardiness. Although quite hardy, Indica yield less than japonica types and are most often grown in the tropics.
The variety grown in Africa is long grain, or Indica, with two modes of cultivation: upland, grown without benefit of irrigation, and the wetter, irrigated version more commonly known as Basmati. As the upland cultivation is dependent on the weather, it's also more prone to failure through drought.
The length of long-grain rice is four to five times that of its width. There are both white and brown varieties of long-grain rice, which, when cooked, produce light, dry grains that separate easily.
When the rice has been harvested, it comes to the processing plant still in the husks and is put into storage silos. From the silos the rice goes into the rice-feeder which feeds the rice to the prewasher to wash the rice, then the outer coat is removed before it goes then to be graded. If the topcoat has not been removed properly it goes back to be removed and then back to be graded.
Once the rice has been graded the husks are then removed in the milling machines, then it goes to the polishing machine, and from the polishing machine it goes to a sorter to remove any broken rice, then the rice goes to be bagged and then boxed. The process from beginning to end is done without any form of human contact, keeping the whole process sterile.
Our rice is produced to international standards, meaning it is ready to be exported to the international market.
The commonly accepted view is that rice was first domesticated in the region of the Yangtze River valley in China some 12,000 years ago, although Korean archaeologists claimed to have discovered the world's oldest domesticated rice in 2003 – their 15,000 year old age challenged this view. In 2011, a combined effort by the Stanford University, New York University, Washington University in St. Louis, and Purdue University has provided the strongest evidence yet that there is only one single origin of domesticated rice, in the Yangtze Valley of China.
The earliest remains of the grain in the Indian subcontinent have been found in the Indo-Gangetic Plain and date from 7000–6000 BC though the earliest widely accepted date for cultivated rice is placed at around 3000–2500 BC with findings in regions belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization. African rice has been cultivated for 3,500 years. Between 1500 and 800 BC, Oryza glaberrima propagated from its original centre, the Niger River delta, and extended to Senegal. However, it never developed far from its original region. Its cultivation even declined in favour of the Asian species, which was introduced to East Africa early in the common era and spread westward. African rice helped Africa conquer its famine of 1203.
The Moors brought Asiatic rice to the Iberian Peninsula in the 10th century. Records indicate it was grown in Valencia and Majorca. In Majorca, rice cultivation seems to have stopped after the Christian conquest, although historians are not certain. Muslims also brought rice to Sicily, where it was an important crop long before it is noted in the plain of Pisa (1468) or in the Lombard plain (1475), where its cultivation was promoted by Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, and demonstrated in his model farms. After the 15th century, rice spread throughout Italy and then France, later propagating to all the continents during the age of European exploration.
Rice is not native to the Americas but was introduced to Latin America and the Caribbean by European colonizers at an early date with Spanish colonizers introducing Asian rice to Mexico in the 1520s at Veracruz and the Portuguese and their African slaves introducing it at about the same time to Colonial Brazil. Varieties of rice and bean dishes that were a staple dish along the peoples of West Africa remained a staple among their descendants subjected to slavery in the Spanish New World colonies, Brazil and elsewhere in the Americas.
In 1694, rice arrived in South Carolina, probably originating from Madagascar. In the United States, colonial South Carolina and Georgia grew and amassed great wealth from slave labour obtained from West Africa because of their prior knowledge of rice culture, which was put to use on the many rice plantations around Georgetown, Charleston, and Savannah. Rice in the Southeastern U.S. became less profitable with the loss of slave labour after the American Civil War, finally dying out just after the turn of the 20th century. In the Southern US, rice has been grown in southern Arkansas, Louisiana, and east Texas since the mid-19th century. Many Cajun farmers grew rice in wet marshes and low-lying prairies where they could also farm crayfish when the fields were flooded. In recent years rice production has risen in North America, especially in the Mississippi River Delta areas in the states of Arkansas and Mississippi as well as in California, where cultivation began during the California Gold Rush, when an estimated 40,000 Chinese labourers immigrated to the state and grew small amounts of the grain for their own consumption. Commercial production began only in 1912. By 2006, California produced the second largest rice crop in the United States, after Arkansas. More than 100 varieties of rice are commercially produced primarily in six states (Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and California) in the U.S.
Long grain known locally as Upland rice is also known as ‘Ghaiya rice’, well known for its drought tolerance, important because unlike most varieties of rice, Upland rice is rice grown on dry soil.
Upland rice is grown in rain fed fields prepared and seeded when dry, much like wheat or maize. The ecosystem is extremely diverse, including fields that are level, gently rolling or steep, at altitudes up to 2,000 metres and with rainfall ranging from 1,000 to 4,500 mm annually. Soils range from highly fertile to highly weathered, infertile and acidic, but only 15 percent of total upland rice grows where soils are fertile and the growing season is long.
In recent times, researchers have helped improve upland rice crops by producing cultivars adapted to poor soils, and with improved blast resistance and drought tolerance. Some have out-yielded traditional rices by more than 100 percent in evaluations. Scientists at national agricultural research systems have crossed these improved rices with local cultivars and farmers are now beginning to grow the progeny. But more improvements are needed to meet the new challenges.
Basmati literally means the “prince of fragrance” or “the perfumed one” because of the delicate, nutty taste and unique aroma and has been venerated for centuries.
Consumption of Basmati by the populations of the Middle Ease, America and Europe have increased steadily and is the main rice variety eaten in the UK, making up almost 50% of the market.
Primarily grown in India and its surroundings, but more recently has been introduced into Africa in wetter lowland areas. The variety most well known in Africa is called “Supa” and is grown primarily for its resistance to disease as well as for producing an abundant crop.
Aromatic rices have definite aromas and flavours; the most noted cultivars are Thai fragrant rice, Basmati, Patna rice, Vietnamese fragrant rice, and a hybrid cultivar from America, sold under the trade name Texmati. Both Basmati and Texmati have a mild popcorn-like aroma and flavour. In Indonesia, there are also red and black cultivars.
High-yield cultivars of rice suitable for cultivation in Africa and other dry ecosystems, called the new rice for Africa (NERICA) cultivars, have been developed. It is hoped that their cultivation will improve food security in West Africa.