SAMBALPUR: A group of farmers in Western Odisha is not just reaping the benefit of cultivating black rice but also popularising the crop among paddy growers in the region.
Black rice has a niche market for its nutritional and medicinal benefits, both in Odisha and outside. Known as Kalabati Dhana in local parlance, the indigenous rice variety is being grown by a few farmers in Western Odisha, Bargarh and Sambalpur particularly, as the crop fetches a premium price with little input cost as compared to the normal white rice.
One among them is Sudam Sahu, a progressive farmer from Bargarh who has been growing Kalabati Dhana from 2014. Five years back, Sahu collected two varieties of black rice seeds from Sambhav Farm in Nayagarh which he has preserved till now.
“I came to know about benefits of this rice variety from various sources and decided to experiment on one acre of land. The return was good because it was in demand due to its medicinal properties,” said Sahu, who grows the rice using organic methods. Kalabati gives a yield in 150 days. According to rice scientists, black rice has more vitamins, calcium and other minerals compared to white rice besides, it is rich in fibre and has anti-carcinogenic properties. The plant is black in colour and so is the grain.
Over the next few years, Sahu collected more varieties of black rice and at present, he has 12 varieties of seeds of which, four varieties - Kalabati, Kala Maliful, Handisal and Debanna - have huge demand in many States outside Odisha. During the current season, he mobilised 50 to 55 farmers for growing these four varieties over an area of 60 to 70 acres. And he has also sold 70 quintals of seeds in other States.
"We used to sell the seeds as well as rice at Rs 500 per kg. Since we want to popularise black rice in the region, we have revised the price for local market. From this season, we are selling rice at Rs 150 per kg and seeds at Rs 200 to Rs 250 per kg in local market. Besides, we are planning to gift a fixed quantity of black rice to other farmers here to encourage them to start growing Kalabati Dhana," said Sahu.
He claims to have grown another variety of black rice -Buddha Bhog - this crop season which is a boon for diabetic patients as it helps in controlling sugar levels.
Like Sahu, Sunil Pradhan of Hatibari under Jujumura block had cultivated the crop over seven acres during last kharif season and harvested 12 bags per acre, which he sold at Rs 500 per kg. "The State Government is not very serious about black rice because it is low yielding. But if it includes black rice in its procurement schedule and facilitates marketing, growing Kalabati Dhana will become beneficial for both farmers and locals," said Pradhan.
Currently, the State Government is not providing any incentive for growing black rice.While 70 farmers are growing Kalabati Dhana in Bargarh, 20 farmers are trying their luck with it in Sambalpur.