NAGAPATTINAM: Ever tried traditional rice, the one that looks brownish-red? It may taste a bit different but it has immense health benefits. In fact, the biggest consumers of traditional rice breeds are private super specialty hospitals across major cities, which cater to dietary needs of patients, predominantly diabetics.
Besides health benefits, the breeds – Maapillai Samba, Kavuni, Garudan Samba, Thanga Samba and Samba Mosanam – are said to be drought-resistant and can also survive excessive rainfall. That works like an insurance cover, isn’t it?
To cater to the growing demand, farmers here this year have expanded the acreage under traditional rice by about 600 acres. While the last season witnessed about 1,200 acres of traditional rice cultivation in Nagapattinam district, the figure would go up to 1,800 acres this Samba season.
Farmers say traditional paddy breeds do not seek high amounts of water, as they utilise moisture content in the air for growth.
According to Jayaraman, State coordinator of Save Our Rice campaign, “Thalainayar, Valivalam and Thirukuvazhai localities of Nagapattinam district have witnessed farmers opting for traditional paddy varieties. Since there is good demand for traditional rice such as Maapilai Samba, farmers are comfortable cultivating them.” About 20 kg of seeds are required per acre for traditional paddy cultivation for harvesting as much as 1,500 kg. Traditional rice fetches a market price of over Rs 62 per kg, which is decidedly more that the conventional rice you normally consume at home. It is the higher value for effort that draws farmers towards its cultivation.
Just as Maapilai Samba faces a huge demand from diabetics, the ‘Kavuni’ breed is supposed to fortify the immune system. “Super specialty hospitals at Chennai and Tiruchy are procuring traditional rice varieties from us. It is the hefty procurement prices that encourages other farmers to take up traditional paddy cultivation,” Jayaraman adds.
While cultivation cost for traditional paddy per acre is around Rs 6,000, it is about Rs 15,000 per acre for conventional paddy such as CR-1009 and other ADT paddy varieties. Traditional crops also keep weeds in check, as they grow taller than weeds, thus depriving them of sunlight.
As many as 63 traditional varieties, including Poonkar, Maapillai Samba, Kavuni and Thengapoo Samba are cultivated in the delta districts. Farmers say they get seeds for traditional paddy through links with their counterparts across the delta districts.