The Rice Innovation Roadmap of the North
Rice is everywhere. Across the globe people consume vast quantities of rice, and Thailand is no exception. Anyone who has enjoyed the range of Thai food available on every roadside, every mall, and every home will know that rice almost always makes an appearance.
However, the story of rice goes far deeper than just steaming and serving. Rice in Thailand is farmed throughout the country, with farmers in the north, and northeast struggling with droughts and infertile soil and central and southern rice farms dealing with high demand from international traders. Developments need to be made if Thailand’s once booming rice industry is to be maintained and even improved up on Enter the Ministry of Science and Technology, with support from the Northern Science Park of Thailand and the Excellence Center in Logistics and Supply Chain Management, presenting the ambitious Rice Innovation Roadmap which could drastically change the face of rice farming, production and consumption in Thailand.
This roadmap is designed to restructure the way rice is produced and consumed in a revolutionary way that could see the lives of farmers change for the better, and you at home having access to much higher quality of rice, with a range of facts, information and guarantees of high quality coming with every bowl.
Presently, farmers grow and sell un-milled rice to middlemen who then sell the rice to a mill before it’s sold to a packaging company and then finally to the consumers. As a result, farmers receive less income. The first step on this roadmap is to help adjust the market, offering farmers the ability to grow, mill, pack and sell rice directly to the consumer. Consumers get cheaper rice as there are less overheads and farmers make more money as they are not undercut by middlemen buyers looking for the cheapest rice. This has been titled the Direct Rice Delivery Project.
Associate Professor Dr. Apichat Sopadang, head of the Excellence Centre in Logistics and Supply Chain Management at Chiang Mai University, is leading this revolution. “Rice is like coffee,” he explains, presenting another part of the roadmap – home milling. “We are currently exploring machines made overseas that can be used to mill rice as and when you need it, right in your kitchen, meaning it is much fresher and un-milled rice can be kept much longer too. We call this Homemade Rice.” He compares milling rice at home to freshly grinding coffee – fresh, aromatic and much more delicious than the pre-prepared counterpart.
However, it is Phase 1 of the roadmap which is ready for the masses – Your Right Rice. The Northern Science Park of Thailand is now offering both big businesses and small rice farmers the opportunity to become involved with their brand new consumer based guarantee system. Simply put, farmers are free to send rice to the labs, it is tested and rated, and then packaged and distributed under the official name of “Sermkhun Premium Rice”. Each type of rice packaged will have authentication stickers to ensure the consumer knows exactly what properties each rice type has. Be it Black Jasmine Rice with a minimum 18% more fiber than white rice perfect for people with health concerns; Rice Berry with 60% more antioxidants than regular rice; or Red Brown Jasmine Rice offering a lower glycemic index than regular white rice, each pack has its own special property that consumers can now see clearly.
These guarantees are also extended to any rice company who wishes to have a sticker of approval from the Ministry of Science and Technology, a service they offer for free. If successful in lab testing, rice companies will be provided with stickers indicating that their rice has certain health benefits, carries a low carbon footprint, low water footprint, is organic or is pesticide free. Each batch of rice must be tested and certified before such stickers will be provided too, so rest assured what you see is what you get.
In addition to these current action plans within the road map, there are also a range of other upcoming projects such as readymade meals with certified rice exported across the globe, QR codes on all their products and partner products so consumers can read more in-depth information regarding their rice if they so wish. There’s even a Thai Rice Beverage action plan which will see a range of rice based alcoholic drinks with regional attributes.
“We plan that by the end of this year that Phase 1 of our roadmap will be complete,” says Dr. Apichat Sopadang. “Your Right Rice, Homemade Rice and the Direct Rice Delivery Project. Once they are compete and if they are successful, Phase 2 will be given the green light and we will continue our revolution.”
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