BOTH the income of farmers and the well-being of Filipinos could be greatly improved if consumers reduced their reliance on white rice and turned to the healthy alternative of brown rice, researchers at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) said.
Countries like the Philippines prefer the commercially milled or white rice while the traditional brown rice remains unpopular. Ricepedia revealed factors such as lesser cooking time, longer shelf life and palatability contribute to this trend. Filipinos also consider the same reasons, thus reducing the demand for brown rice and increasing its price. However, the PhilRice believes brown rice consumption is more beneficial.
PhilRice Senior Science Research Specialist Hazel Antonio said brown rice even results in better health for consumers and to more income for farmers.
Brown rice, or “Pinawa” among Tagalogs, is simply unpolished white rice. Though unpolished, Pinawa has more protein, fiber, good fats, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B9 and E, antioxidants and minerals than white rice. This can help reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases, according to PhilRice.
Clinical studies prove that as an effective laxative, brown rice promotes regular bowel movement. Consuming it also prevents kidney stone build-up as it decreases urinary calcium.
Brown rice also encourages balanced eating. “Based on testimonial evidence, people consume less rice when they eat brown rice,” PhilRice Consultant Dr. Cezar Mamaril said in an interview published by the International
Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Brown grains weigh heavier so people consume less.
Production of brown rice also entails higher milling recovery, which means that with every 10 kilograms of paddy or unpolished rice, a farmer can recover up to 7.5 kg of brown rice compared to 6.5 kg of white rice. Antonio believes increased brown rice consumption “can contribute to rice self-sufficiency.”
With the many benefits of brown rice, especially its higher million recovery compared to white rice, PhilRice is launching a campaign to increase Pinawa consumption called BROWN4Good.
Since the proclamation of the National Year of Rice (NYR) in 2013, the National Rice Awareness Month is celebrated every November. This endeavor targets to enforce rice-self-sufficiency through partnerships from the public and private sector. Among the advocacies of National Rice Awareness Month is increasing brown rice consumption.
Brown for good
On August 28, PhilRice launched a social media campaign called Brown4good Challenge that aims to promote the virtues of brown rice.
“We have been focusing before on rice wastage [since NYR was launched in 2013]. We’ve moved to another message which is the consumption of brown rice,” Antonio said. She is also the campaign director of the Brown4good Challenge.
Part of the campaign covers social media, where netizens are encouraged to post photos of their Pinawa meal, caption it with #BROWN4good, and then challenge their friends to do the same.
PhilRice believes the social media component will help increase brown rice consumption that will benefit both consumers and farmers.
“First they will have a better health; [second]it’s good for the farmers because these farmers directly sell their products to food establishments and retailers at a very affordable price. Third, it’s good for the country because brown rice has 10-percent higher milling recovery,” Antonio said.
“And lastly, for every hashtag, the Department of Agriculture will donate one cup of brown rice to less fortunate Filipinos for charity, so they can see the goodness in their health, to the farmers, to their country, and they can see that they are able to feed one person,” she added.
Antonio revealed the #BROWN4good concept was inspired by Thailand’s campaign also for increased brown rice consumption in which King Bhumibol Adulyadej actually suggested it to people because it is no longer a poor man’s food. The King claims he consumes it three times a day.
More energy efficient
PhilRice also said brown rice production is more energy-efficient. Since brown rice is only milled once, this can result to 50- to 60-percent savings on fuel and energy. This leads to lesser carbon emissions.
Despite the benefits, brown rice remains unpopular in the Philippines. It can be more costly since brown rice only undergoes dehulling it requires a premium rice variety. Also, because of its shorter shelf life, low demand contributes to higher prices. Traders also tend to be abusive with pricing since the health benefits of Pinawa are known.
Antonio also said there is a need to improve “the marketing capacity of our farmers” so they can sell directly to consumers or establishments.
But the virtues of brown rice can no longer be overlooked and it may be one of the keys to helping the country achieve rice self-sufficiency.
Clarissa Botecario, Special to The Times