Programs and Activities

Foundation bats for more consumption of Brown Rice

By Zac Sarian
Agriculture Magazine, July 2003

ONE STRATEGY to enhance food security as well as good health is for more Filipinos to eat brown rice, otherwise known as "pinawa". This was stressed by Dr. Roger Cuyno, the country director of the Asia Rice Foundation (ARF), a nonprofit, nonstock organization that aims to mobilize and provide support to research, education, cultural and advocacy movements that promote public appreciation of the role of rice in the diverse cultures of Asia. He revealed that one major ARF project is the promotion of brown rice as the standard staple for mass consumption. He appeared upbeat that a Visayan congressman is planning to make his district in Iloilo as a major producer of brown rice. He observed that ironically brown rice is not being consumed by the masses. Instead, it is the well-to-do who are buying pinawa, paying from P30 to P40 per kilo in the retail outlets, mostly supermarts. That is truly ironic because producing brown rice is actually cheaper. It requires 65% less energy to mill brown rice. At the same time, the milling recovery is 10% more! The reason for the high price could be that there is no steady supply of brown rice. And since supply is scarce, the sellers dictate their own rice. As of now, brown rice supply is confined primarily in Los Banos area and Tiaong, Quezon.

But brown rice need not be scarce. After all, brown rice is simply unpolished whole grain rice d1at is produced by removing only the hull or husk using rubber roll mills. Of course, it could also be produced the old fashioned way by means of pestle and mortar. But that is already antiquated. ARF observes that pinawa used to be popular with consumers some 50 years ago. With the introduction of milling machines in the 1950s, however, consumers shifted to eating the white grains. That's probably because polished rice was perceived to be more "classy" because of its distinct polished grains. On the other hand, brown rice became associated with water-damaged grains because of its off color and was regarded as suited only for animal feed.

In actuality, however, ARF stresses that brown rice is much better than white rice. It is loaded with more micronutrients, vitamins and minerals than white rice. Unknown to many, the Foundation says, the bran layer contains very important nutrients vitamin B complex. Brown rice is also rich in fiber and essential oils. Fiber has been known to prevent major diseases such as gastrointestinal and heart diseases. The essential oils in the bran have also been shown to prevent heart diseases because these decrease serum cholesterol, a major risk factor in heart disease.

ARF adds that brown rice also has high phytin which is a strong antioxidant. Although phytin also reduces iron absorption into the body, this can be corrected by eating a variety of vegetables and fruits. The Foundation adds that the preferred varieties for brown rice are MS8, IR841, Burdagol, IR64, C4 and Dinorado: These are classified as fancy or special rice varieties. Other varieties are being tested such as the new hybrid rices to satisfy the aroma, flavor and consistency requirements. Producing brown rice could offer new opportunities to entrepreneurs. It will entail certain special handling procedures, however. Brown rice, for instance, will have to be packaged in sealed transparent plastic bags to preserve the aroma for some time and prolong quality.

In cooking, ARF also suggests that for softer feel, brown rice is soaked in water for about 20 minutes before cooking. Normally, the proportion of brown rice to water is one is to two (one cup rice to two cups water). This, of course, may be adjusted according to the desired softness and the variety used. One kilo of brown rice when cooked will produce 12 serving cups. In the campaign to popularize the eating of brown rice, Cuyno said that the Asia Rice Foundation will collaborate and network with the National Food Authority, Nutrition Center of the Philippines, National Nutrition Council, Department of Health, newspapers and other media, civic groups (Rotary, Jaycees, Lions, etc.), restaurant chains, millers, retailers and traders.