Conceptualising Chak-Hao (black scented rice) as the capital resource of Manipur

Black Scented Rice (Oryza sativa Linnaeus) locally known as Chak-Hao amubi/Chak-Hao Poireiton is now confined to serving only as delicacy in local feast and festivities. Till very late, the black rice is not cultivated commercially as the same cannot be used as staple food thereby resulting to limited market acess. But now having realised the inherent unique properties, a good scope for commercial cultivation and value addition of its products for a profitable agro-business have been envisioned. The area under cultivation of Black Rice is comparatively very low, approximately it ranges 60-70 ha only till last Kharif 2015. Even though the yield of Chak-Hao is vey low as compared to HYV Rice, it is still more profitable in term of economic returns as evident from the analysis report detailed below.
Scope for market: Although, Black Rice cannot be consumed as staple food, because of the unique inherrent nutritional value, the rice has been slowly gaining its importance and demands from around the globe. As of now, few enterprising units and state’s entrepreneurs are regularly marketing the processed and graded rice in the National markets. Interestingly Manipur Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium has been regularly receiving demands not only from National Market consumers but also from South Asian and European Countries. However, of the two prominent varieties viz. Chak-Hao Poireiton and Chak-Hao Amubi, the later is having more demand from the consumers.
Intervention required: This location specific potential could only be harnessed when commercial cultivation could be undertaken either on Contract Farming System or Public Private Partnership (PPP) model as this can only ensure production with the required quality parameters and assured buy-back arrangement.
Post Harvest Management requiring R & D Support: The most important common constriant encountered with Chakhao is poor keeping quality caused due to heavy infestation by Rice Weevil and Rice Moth both either in processed or unprocessed grain due to high moisture content during harvest and storage. Standardised technologies need to be disseminated to the growers for commercialisation.
Properties and Benefits of Black Rice: Purple or black rice is considered to be the healthiest rice variety, with a higher vitamin and mineral content than both white and brown rice. Black rice owes its colour to powerful natural black colouring pigments called anthocyanins which boast an impressive antioxidant activity adding to the health benefits of this rice variety.
In addition to being a good source of vitamin E, fibre and protein, black rice is shown to reduce inflammation levels in the body.
According to findings of the research, black rice consumption contributes to the prevention and management of serious conditions such as atherosclerosis, hypertension high cholesterol levels, arthritis, allergies and even cancer.
How is black rice different from white and brown rice? Finest of all, black rice varieties are stickier than regular white rice or brown rice due to a lower Amylase content and a higher Amylopectin content. Amylose and amylopectin are the two components of starch. Stickier black rice is thus called glutinous; despite being called so, it contains no gluten. Secondly, its dark colour is the result of a high anthocyanins content which gives rice a black pigment when raw.
What does black rice taste like? Actually, black rice has mild nutty taste. Paired with a sticky texture, it is ideal for desserts such as  rice pudding, Kheer, rice bread, even noodles, pasta and so on. Overall, black rice is ranked healthier than brown rice and regular consumption is said to con tribute to overall health.
Here are 5 reasons why we should consider including black rice in our diet.
1. High antioxidant content
The dark colour of black rice indicates the presence of powerful antioxidant-pigments called anthocyanins. The same anthocyanins that give black rice its black and purple colouring can be found in blackberries and blueberries. As we already know, blueberries blackberries and other dark-coloured fruits boast an incredible antioxidant activity. And so does black rice. Antioxidants prevents cell damages caused by free radicals and thus provide protection against illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and even reduce cancer risks by treating conditions that may evolve into cancer.
2. Black rice promotes heart health
The high anthocyanins content in black rice prevents plaque build up on artery walls, the main cause for atherosclerosis and heart attacks. The plaque that shrinks arteries is actually fat, calcium and other deposits. Apparently, the anthocyanins in dark-coloured fruits and vegetables and black rice control cholesterol (blood fat) levels and thus contribute to maintaining a healthy heart and healthy circulatory system. They are so effective that no modern drug has been able to replicate their cholesterol-lowering effects yet.
3. Delays aging
One of the main functions of antioxidants is to prevent cell damage and help repair damaged cells, This basically means that with enough antioxidants, our body might keep on in good health forever due to having perfectly healthy working cells. Of course, this is but a theory. However, there is scientific evidence that a diet consisting of antioxidant-rich foods such as blueberries or black slows down cellular aging and delays aging signs,
4. Disease prevention
Black rice is said to help prevent diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and even cancer due to its high antioxidant content.
5. Helps to Prevent Diabetes
Studies have shown that when it comes to the risk of developing diabetes and even obesity, consuming whole grains is much more beneficial and preventative than consuming refined carbohydrates. Compared to eating processed carbohydrates which are stripped of their fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients that help to slow down the absorption of sugar in the blood stream, black rice is a much healthier option. Black rice contains the entire bran of the grain where the fiber is stored, and fiber is able to help glucose (sugar) from the grain to be absorbed by the body over a longer period of time.
6. No gluten
Being gluten-free, black rice can be safely eaten if we are suffering from Celiac disease, gluten intolerance or even wheat allergy black or purple rice, brown rice, white rice, amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa are all gluten-free and thus go easy on the small intestine, allowing for digestion to run its normal course.
Overall, black rice is by far the healthiest rice variety. It supports cardiovascular health, delays aging and plays a part in the prevention of certain illnesses such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Regular consumption appears to regularise blood cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation. Low in sugar and rich in fibre, black rice makes a genuinely healthy dietary choice with good amount of Vitamin E.
(MS Khaidem is the Project Coordinator, Manipur SFAC)

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