By: Dr. Leishangthem Jeebit Singh, MPS Grade – II (P) and Former Agriculture Officer & Dr. Gayatri Khangjarakpam, Assistant Professor, College of Agriculture, CAU, Imphal, [email protected]
Chakhao, frequently referred to as black aromatic rice or simply black or purple rice, possesses a significant legacy within Manipur’s agricultural history. It has the capacity to dramatically transform the socio-economic landscape of this agrarian state. In Manipur, Chakhao translates to “tasty rice” (with ‘Chak’ representing rice and ‘ahoaba’ indicating delicious). From a scientific perspective, it falls under the Oryzasativa L. species and represent a variety of popular rice that we consume. This medium-duration rice variety typically matures within 120 days and thrives best in upland environment, exhibiting considerable resistance to drought and pests. The unique characteristics of this crop are thought to be closely tied to the soil conditions and untouched natural environment of Manipur. Despite the lower yield when compared to standard paddy,it can command a higher market price due to its inherent values. It still remains an integral component of conventional Meetei feasts. Upon cooking, this special rice variety undergoes a colour transition from dark purple to black, thanks to the intensity of its outer bran layer. Nutritionally, it stands out as a superior choice endowed with abundant fibre, antioxidants, and anthocyanins. The health index of black or purple rice surpasses that of both white and brown rice, owing to its higher concentration of vitamins and minerals. It hence earns the title of a ‘super food’ with its high nutritional profile. It emits a mild nutty aroma and flavour while being naturally free of gluten. With low amylase content, it possesses a sticky or glutinous texture due to the high amylopectin presence.Despite the rising awareness and demand, the traditional means of production may fall short of meeting the future demand. To fully unlock the potential of this less-commercialized super food, targeted interventions in research, marketing, and consumer education about this produce are urgently needed. An exploration of the numerous avenues where such interventions could be beneficial for its growth is discussed further.
Importance of Geographical Indication
Geographical Indication (GI) serves as an internationally authorized regime for intellectual property rights that provide legal protection for a multitude of products, ranging from artisan cheeses to fruits and handicrafts. The Indian Parliament in 1999 enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act to implement heightened protection and registration of geographical indications concerning goods. The Controller General of Patents, Designs, and Trade Marks, who also serves as the Registrar of Geographical Indications, administers this Act from the Geographical Indications Registry in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. GI protection covers products that originate from specific geographical areas and safeguards them against use for products not originating from that region. Such protection has profound implications for both consumers and producers. It allows consumers to differentiate goods produced in a particular geographical region from others, thereby averting misleading information. Essentially, this intellectual property right aims to protect GIs, allowing enterprises in the designated area to prevent others from using the indication. Specific logos aid in differentiating GI products from non-GI ones. GIs can potentially benefit producers by increasing the competitiveness and price of their goods, essentially providing a legitimate ground for trade and commercial benefits. For instance, the Indian Government has recently given the ‘Chakhao’ or ‘Manipur Black Rice’ a Geographical Indication Registration (GI No. 602 dt. 20/4/2020) under the Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, in recognition of its unique qualities. This GI registration aims to heighten consumer awareness of the distinctive grain, potentially leading to increased demand.
Health Benefits of Consuming Chakhao Rice
Chakhao’s multifaceted health advantages are part of its unique appeal, drawing global attention among those conscious of their dietary decisions. Producers and marketers must represent these advantages accurately to prevent misrepresentations and potential legal implications. Specific benefits linked toits consumption are as follows:
1. Cancer Risk Reduction: Its rich anthocyanin content provides potent antioxidant effects, combating cellular damage from reactive oxygen species. This intervention could deter carcinogenic progression.
2. Cardiovascular Health: Anthocyanins in Chakhao can mitigate endothelial plaque deposition, which often precipitates atherosclerosis and heart disorders – effectively promoting heart health and sound circulatory function.
3. Cellular Aging Deterrence: The antioxidants present obstruct the cellular aging process and slow the emergence of aging signs.
4. Diabetes and Obesity Prevention: Compared to refined carbohydrates, whole grain consumption, such as Chakhao, offers fibres, antioxidants and nutrients that interrupt rapid sugar absorption, reducing postprandial hyperglycemia. Anthocyanins further minimize starch digestion by inhibiting á-glucosidase and á-amylase, contributing to Type 2 diabetes treatment.
5. Gluten-Free: It poses no risk to those with Celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or wheat allergy, allowing digestion to proceed unimpeded.
6. Disease Prevention: Its abundant antioxidants can assist in the prevention and management of severe health conditions like atherosclerosis, hypertension, arthritis, allergies, Alzheimer’s disease, and more.
7. Alternative Health Food: With significant contributions of dietary fibre, vitamins B and E, niacin, and minerals such as iron, calcium, manganese, zinc, it constitutes a robust dietary selection.
Distinctiveness of Chakhao among Sea of Black/Purple Rice
While there are more than 200 types of purple/black rice, primarily concentrated in Asian countries, the emphasis is needed on the popularisation of Chakhao, a distinct black rice variety. There’s a looming risk of its admixture or misbranding alongside other black rice types. Chakhao’s recent GI registration offers a form of protection against such issues to a certain degree by authenticating its provenance and offering intellectual property rights to its traditional growers, ensuring that consumers receive the genuine product. However, there is always a competitive environment spurred by other black rice variants. Thus, a pressing need exists to characterise Chakhao against these varieties distinctly on various fronts. Ranging from its unique aroma to its nutritional constituents or even its specific genetic markers, these elements serve as defining traits, differentiating Chakhao from the rest. Enhancing the Chakhao value chain provides a strategic path to develop its competitiveness favourably. Improvement in farming practices, fostering alliances with local farmers and promoting scientific research for its variety development and post-harvest management techniques can serve as a comprehensive pillar for the same. Moreover, delving into the health benefits associated with Chakhao, such as its anticancer, antioxidant, and anti-diabetic properties, offer an impressive appeal to health-conscious consumers. These health benefits can act as paramount driving factors, thus expanding its potential market. Thus, promoting Chakhao’s unique attributes can create a compelling narrative towards its appeal, benefiting both traders and consumers in the long run.
Research Interventions Required in Chakhao
Leveraging Chakhao’s potential needs a solid scientific base, yet the current R&D on this crop is limited. Applying standard R&D methods poses a challenge due to its unique growing conditions and quality issues when cultivated elsewhere. This demands original research from scientists and involvement of farmers. Areas to explore for accessing Chakhao’s untapped potential include:
1. Development of improved varieties: Around 20 Chakhao rice varieties, such as ‘Poireiton,’ ‘Amubi,’ ‘Sempak,’ and ‘Arangbi’ are grown in Manipur, but their low yields and susceptibility to weather conditions make them less economical. High-yielding, shorter varieties of Chakhao need to be developed using conventional or advanced breeding techniques. This should maintain or enhance the rice’s unique aromatic and sticky qualities, increasing cultivation and profitability for farmers.
2. Supply of quality seeds: Quality seeds play a crucial role in enhancing crop productivity and ensuring sustainable cultivation. Current practices of seed production among farmers lack standardization, wrongly preserving seeds for subsequent seasons, and overlooking important steps like seed certification. This results in potential contamination and inconsistency. Similarly, scientific methods including rouging and storing seed grains safely against environmental factors or pests need to be standardized. Solving these issues is crucial for maintaining the genetic and physical purity of seeds.
3. Scientific package of practices: It is cultivated by traditionally without the application of synthetic agro-chemicals. There is a general experience among the farmers that the plant being a tall variety has higher lodging chances with the use of fertilizers. The farmers also lack the use of motorized implements to carry out various cultural practices. The indigenous farmers’ technology practise since time immemorial should be properly studied and improvised. Complete packages of practise from nursery preparation, land preparation, transplanting, planting, weeding, irrigation, nutrition, plant protection, etc. with a cost benefit analysis need to be developed. The package of practices for can be standardised for both conventional and organic cultivation to increase the yield without compromising the quality of the harvested grains.
4. Postharvest quality management: Postharvest losses in grains during harvest, handling, processing, and transportation can result from scattering, crushing, physico-chemical deterioration, pest infestation, and mycotoxin contamination.
Understanding the supply chain and identifying causative factors at each stage is key. Important areas for postharvest quality management include:
a. Modified Milling Process: Chakhao, a unique rice variety, requires a distinct milling technique owing to its anthocyanin content and higher moisture levels. Regular milling results in nutrient loss and quality depletion. Thus, development of a new milling technology to preserve its quality is imperative.
b. Advanced Grading and Sorting: Chakhao currently lacks quality grading and suffers from inconsistency issues. Advanced AI-based grading and sorting technologies can improve efficiency and maintain high quality standard needed for global marketing.
c. Innovative Storage and Packaging: Chakhao’s storage faces issues like pest infestation and environmental conditions, limiting its shelf life. New techniques for storage, packaging, moisture management, and technology specific to Chakhao’s needs could extend shelf life and maintain quality—promising areas for further research.
5. Product Innovation and Development: Consumers generally have a preference for firm and non-sticky rice grains, which differs from the characteristics of Chakhao. As a result, this variety of rice is not commonly consumed on a regular basis like white rice. The unique qualities of Chakhao, including its longer cooking time and tendency to become sticky when soaked in water, may be unfamiliar to many new consumers. Hence, it becomes necessary to create value-added products that cater to the convenience needs of these new consumers.
– Developing value-added products, such as cakes, flaked rice, bread, noodles, and rice powder, to increase variety in food choices and make Chakhao a part of everyday consumption.
– Chakhao rice bran oil: Exploring the potential of rice bran oil due to its superior nutritional content. This can provide a healthy alternative to other edible oils.
– Anthocyanin extracts: Tapping into its high anthocyanin content to produce antioxidative phytochemicals. This can be used in the production of nutraceuticals, functional food products, dietary supplements, and natural dyes.
6. Waste utilisation: Waste from Chakhao rice milling like broken rice, rice germ, husks, and bran offers several reuse possibilities. Waste utilization not only benefits environment but also adds economic value.
– Rice husk: Can be converted into fuel, used for electricity production, soil fertilization, animal feed, among other uses.
– Broken rice: Utilized in the production of value-added food products such as flour.
– Rice bran: Rich in vitamins and ã-oryzanol, it’s an ideal ingredient for pastries and baked goods; also used to produce defatted rice bran and edible rice bran wax.
Marketing includes understanding customer needs, developing products to meet those needs, setting a profitable and attractive price, and placing the product where the customer can easily buy it. It also includes informing customers about the product and overseeing the entire sales process. Crucially, marketing involves highlighting a product’s unique features, requiring product positioning. Below are some interventions to enhance the marketing:
1. Promotion: Encourage familiarity with Chakhao outside of Manipur through targeted campaigns showcasing its nutritional and economic benefits. This can be achieved via media adverts, featuring as a special delicacy in restaurants, and through demonstrations.
2. Quality Standards: Implement strict quality parameters after harvesting, including sorting and grading grains. Improve product packaging for consumer convenience.
3. Marketing Linkages: Create a robust supply chain including farmers, traders, processors, and consumers. Partnerships with relevant associations and private sectors can help in distribution and premium pricing.
4. Infrastructure: Construct rice processing factories and improve transportation for easier distribution. Support millers with high-tech and efficient rice milling equipment and provide maintenance training.
5. Training: Provide comprehensive training on benefits of Chakhao, innovative rice production technologies, and post-production handling techniques. Encourage group plantations and train value addition actors.
6. Government Policies: Implement policies to reduce black rice importation, offer subsidies on farming necessities, and promote special incentives to expand in the export market. Provide assistance with loans, product certifications, and licences to rice processors. Establish seed production sites, support millers with appropriate packaging materials, and improve storage practices.
Challenges in Promoting and Marketing
1. Lack of Awareness: A major challenge is the lack of awareness about Chakhao outside of Manipur. The various health and nutritional benefits of this rice need to be projected to the larger consumer population. Overcoming this requires targeted promotional activities.
2. Quality Management: Ensuring and maintaining quality standards is another challenge. After harvest, the grain product must be sorted and graded according to quality standards. This process can be difficult and time-consuming.
3. Market Linkages: Establishment of a value chain is crucial – from the farmer to the processor to the consumer. Without clear linkages, the product may not reach the desired consumer base.
4. Infrastructure: Infrastructure, such as adequate processing facilities and effective transportation systems, is often insufficient, hindering the production and distribution processes.
5. Training: Farmers and processors may lack the required knowledge or skills to effectively grow, process, and market the product. Capacity-building efforts are therefore essential.
6. Competition: The market might be flooded with other black rice varieties, posing a threat of misbranding or admixture. This stresses the need for characterization and GI registration to distinguish Chakhao from other black rice.
7. Government Policies: Inadequate government policies to support local farmers and producers, like minimum support prices or subsidies, can limit the production and marketing of Chakhao.
Addressing these challenges necessitates integrated efforts from farmers, processors, marketers, government bodies, and other stakeholders.
In conclusion, Chakhao, the black aromatic rice from Manipur, presents vast potential in terms of its nutritional value, health benefits, and socioeconomic implications. Leveraging its GI registration, Chakhao’s distinctive properties can be used for value-addition, waste utilization, and efficient marketing. However, for the full realization of its potential, strategic efforts such as comprehensive training, supportive government policies, maintaining quality standards, and infrastructural improvements are crucial. This underscores the need for increased research, improved value chain, and promotion to transform this traditional crop into a globally recognized super food, benefiting producers, consumers, and society at large.