Cultivating black rice in Goa

Farmer Eknath Khedekar preparing his land for black rice cultivation

Eager to move on from the tried and tested, farmer Eknath Khedekar is the first in Dharbandora taluka to experiment with the cultivation of black rice, reports Nirgosh Gaude  

Taking experimental farming a step ahead, journalist- turned- farmer Eknath Khedekar from the Collem Shigao area in Dharbandora taluka is cultivating black rice popularly known as ‘forbidden rice’ in approximately one acre of ancestral land through organic method for the first time in his life.

  And by doing so he is the first farmer in Dharbandora to grow black rice and the only farmer in the state to cultivate the variety this Rabi season, according to the taluka agriculture officer.   

  Due to its high levels of antioxidants and superior nutritional value, black rice is again made a comeback. The variety is gaining in popularity in recent years and demand for it is increasing considering its various health benefits.

  Recognizing the trend, Khedekar decided to experiment with black rice this season with aim of doing something new and profitable venture.

  “A year back I came across one article on black rice and learned from some farmers in Sanguem, Canacona area who successfully experimented with black rice on a small scale that the state environment is suitable for its cultivation.”

  “Taking note of the same I decided to go for black rice instead of normal rice this rabi season. With help of the zonal agriculture officer at Dharbandora  I managed to get black rice seeds and other assistance for the cultivation,” said Khedekar speaking about his venture.

  Inspired by various experimental farming taking place in Dharbandora area and the support provided by the agriculture department, Khedekar brought his fallow land under cultivation step by step over a period of two years. The land was unplanted since a decade.

  In 2019, Khedekar tried out vegetable cultivation in part of land and after getting good response for it, last year he went for paddy cultivation in the entire paddy field of around one acre. This year he is trying black rice in the same field, while also cultivating normal rice in land taken on lease in Quepem, he informed.

  “I feel organically grown black rice has good demand in the market and due to it many farmers in the state are interested in its cultivation.  So there is good demand for black rice seeds too. Keeping that in mind I have cultivated black rice in large quantities with seed production as option,” said Khedekar speaking to this reporter.   

  As per the information black rice cultivation in the state was revived in 2017 with Sanguem based farmers trying it with help of ZDO after getting the seeds from Mizoram. Following it, Canacona- based farmers experimented with black rice in small quantities and got a good response for it.

  After that this year Khedekar opted for black rice after getting seeds from a Canacona based farmer with the help of the zonal officer, ZDO, Dharbandora. Khedkar is expecting around one ton of black price produce.

  According to Nagesh Komarpant , ZDO Dharbandora, black rice origin is in China and in India it is being cultivated in the north-east states and extensively grown in Odisha, West Bengal and Jharkhand.

  Black rice is known as ‘forbidden rice’ because in ancient China it was reserved for only the Emperor and the royalty. The variety was forbidden to the masses and consumed by only the Chinese nobility. Over the years however black rice was no longer forbidden and cultivation of it began in several countries.

   In Goa black rice was traditionally grown by farmers in the past and consumed by Goans. Over the years however cultivation of it almost disappeared as farmers switched over to other local varieties of rice.

  Black rice is a medium-grain, non-glutinous heirloom rice with a deep purple hue and a nutty, slightly sweet flavor. This whole-grain rice is rich in anthocyanins, which are antioxidant pigments that give the rice its unusual color. Relative to other rice varieties, the forbidden rice is high in protein and iron. According to Chinese medicine, it is considered a blood tonic. The other benefit of consuming black rice is that it aids weight loss.  

  “Considering its benefit, demand for it is high and farmers are fetching good income from it. But getting seeds for cultivation is a difficult task Komarpant said.

  Speaking about its cultivation method, Komarpant informed that black rice cultivation procedure is the same as normal paddy cultivation and the only difference is organic method of cultivation. 

  With Khedekar is working hard in his farm the agriculture department is hoping that his experiment turns out to be a big success with many farmers taking the initiative in trying something new.