Friday, April 11, 2008

over half the rice is consumed close to where it is grown

I recently read this fact about Sri Lanka, where most of the paddy is consumed within 8 kilometers from where it is grown. We need to deduce some important points from this. As rice farming is still primarily a very labor intensive and subsistence farming crop, the farmer and his family consume a lot of what he grows. The village rice mill caters to the milling of this paddy, much of which is parboiled at home and brought to the mill and taken back for home consumption.

Another note of interest is that the farmer keeps some of the paddy for home consumption, and so he is more likely to grow only the type of paddy he eats and not which can make him a bigger profit. I notice that in my area only white rice is grown as only that rice is consumed.

It is obvious to me that all three meals of the day consist of rice as the staple and the amount of rice consumed is quite substantial as it forms 90% of a meal’s bulk and for those working in the fields this provides the carbohydrate required. It is also interesting to note that as fewer and fewer women work in the fields, finding other forms of occupation, they tend to be on the heavy side, due to a large intake of rice with little exercise to shed it.

With the ever increasing price of rice the monetary value of the rice consumed rises and a farmer will not change his rice eating to accommodate a price rise, and proudly says that his duty is to grow sufficient rice to feed his family and that only a surplus will be sold.

I had manioc for breakfast and all my staff had heaped plates of rice. The pol-sambol was from the freshly scraped coconut in the land, and at today’s prices a great benefit to them as I provide all the meals. My effective cost therefore is soaring.

We as a county cannot afford to eat three rice meals a day, and we should try and find nutritious alternatives. Of course manioc and sweet potato that grow on even the most marginal lands is more nutritious, but it appears old habits die-hard. It is important that the powers who extol the virtues of eating rice, should instead get the nation to grow manioc, which I believe is the easiest crop to plant with hardly any care and the resultant food can be substituted for breakfast. After all food and taste is all about habit and preference. Nutrition is what matters.

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