KOCHI: Soon, two more traditional rice varieties from Kerala will knock at the doors of the Geographical Indications Registry to get the ‘priced GI tag’. The Intellectual Property Rights Cell of Kerala Agricultural University has begun steps to collect the details of farmers who cultivate the almost extinct two rice varieties of Kerala.
“We have started collecting the details of farmers who cultivate 'Rakthashali' rice and 'Kunkumashali' rice varieties and the details of farming practices of the varieties, along with 'Njavara' rice, which has already been given GI tag by the registry, in Kerala,” says C R Elsy, coordinator, Intellectual Property Rights Cell.
‘‘The move is aimed at creating a data bank of these traditional rice varieties along with holding further studies on the medicinal properties attributed to the varieties. Besides, the IPR Cell will coordinate and do the paper work required for securing the GI tag for the rice varieties,” she says.
P N Chandrasekharan of Malappuram, an entrepreneur who cultivates the largest tract of 'Rakthashali,' one of the rarest red rice varieties with high medicinal value and which is believed to be extinct in Kerala, says there are only around 100 acres of 'Rakthashali' cultivation in parts of Malappuram, Thrissur and Palakkad districts.
‘Rakthashali’, which is also known as ‘Chennellu’, also finds mention in the Puranas and the ancient texts of ayurveda due to its curing properties. It is said the rice helps cure ailments like cancer and kidney-related disorders, he says. He cultivates around 40 acres of ‘Rakthashali’ in parts of Malappuram. It is a low-yielding rice variety as the farmer gets only an average 1,200-1,300 kg of rice per acre.
The rice variety once used to be widely cultivated in the northern districts of Kerala in the past. But when paddy farming shrunk to one crop from three crops a year in the 80s and 90s, it started to become extinct. The shelf-life of ‘Rakthashali’ seed is around five to six months. So the rice variety naturally disappeared from the paddy fields of Kerala when paddy farming was reduced to one-crop system, he says.
The ‘Kunkumashali’ rice variety also almost disappeared from the paddy fields of Kerala almost in a similar way as the seed of this variety too has only a short shelf-life.
Chandrasekharan, who cultivates around five acres of ‘Kunkumashali’ rice, which claims to have all properties of saffron, says the farming of the variety which was once prevalent in North Kerala has almost disappeared now. He sourced the seeds of this variety from Davangere in Karnataka. Chandrasekharan, who has sought patent for the rice varieties under the provisions of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act 2001, has raised apprehension over registering these rice varieties with the GI Registry citing previous experience. He says the ‘Njavara’ rice variety was given GI tag but the farmers are not getting any benefit out of this tag as there is large-scale adulteration in the sale of the variety. In fact, middlemen in the industry are reaping the benefit of the tag, he says.
unique to kerala
There are only around 100 acres of ‘Rakthashali’ rice farming in the state
The average yield of ‘Rakthashali’ is 1,200-1,300 kg per acre
‘Kunkumashali’ rice is said to have properties of saffron