A little known rice variety from the tribal district of Wayanad in Kerala might soon find itself competing with the best of exported rice varieties of Asia, the Basmati rice of India and Jasmine rice from Thailand. The potential for this variety of rice, traditionally known as Gandhakasala rice, which is to compete in the German markets, was brought through a study conducted in association with the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai.
The research carried out by a collaboration of Indian and German scientists under a project called Biodiva was sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research.
The study analysed the marketing potential of the rice in Germany through research and interviews with key players in the industry. The study focused on sectors fair trade, organic foods and providers of gourmet foods, all based in Germany. The study revealed that there is an existing demand for Gandakasala in Germany.
It also pointed out that the rice market in Germany is as of now saturated with Basmati and Jasmine rice.
In order to compete, Gandakasala will have to be marketed as a niche product as an organic or fair trade product or as a delicatessen. There should also be value addition of the product.
Gandakasala has pest and disease resistant properties along with the advantages of high nutritional value, fine taste and cooking properties. Due to these properties, the rice is traditionally used for special occasions like wedding feasts, etc. Owing to its special characteristics, it has been protected under the GI scheme (GI) by the Government of India.
The success of Gandakasala would mean lifeline not only for the tribals of Wayanad, but also for the conservation of traditional rice varieties in the area which is now under threat of changes in land use.
“Low returns from the land have forced many of the paddy fields to be converted into banana fields. This not only leads to drastic changes in land use patterns and hinders water conservation, but also leads to an increase in dependence on pesticides. A market that will ensure return for this organic variety of rice will ensure that people continue to produce the rice and it is conserved,” said N Anil Kumar, Director of the Biodiversity Programme of the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation.