Udaya Agro Farm, a company based in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, is breaking new ground in the rice business. It is producing a white rice that is stated to have more dietary fibre and protein than common varieties of brown rice available in the market.
Patented as ‘Village Rice’ and selected from the traditional varieties of the grain in the Thanjavur region of Tamil Nadu, the health benefits of the rice produced by this company have led to export orders from South Africa, Turkey, Ghana and Yemen.
Interestingly, the company has not resorted to any genetic modification — the health benefits are achieved through classic techniques like mutation breeding, backed by constant research and testing. DNA markers are verified at very early stages of the crop to identify plants that will provide paddy with high fibre content.
Destination South Africa
While basmati and long-grain varieties have been dominating the country’s rice export business, Udaya Agro has managed to win a contract from South Africa to supply 75 tonnes of Village Rice. Its USP (unique selling proposition) rests on providing health benefits along with the well-liked taste of white rice.
The start-up has already exported 5 tonnes to Turkey and 4.5 tonnes to Yemen, apart from 500 kg to Ghana in retail packs. It is also marketing its specialty rice online and is exploring other export markets, too.
Fibre on par with millets
Village Rice has the highest dietary fibre among all white rice varieties available in the market now, G Paranjothi, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Udaya Agro, told The Federal. It is comparable to finger millets in terms of fibre content, he added. He also said the dietary fibre in the rice is around 12% while the protein content is 14%. In comparison, commonly used white rice varieties have dietary fibre content of only 1.5% while protein content is around 6%.
Due to its high fibre and high protein content, Village Rice enables consumers to reap health benefits without compromising on the sumptuous taste of white rice, according to the company.
“Most people find brown rice unpalatable, but are concerned about the impact on their health due to consumption of white rice that does not provide adequate fibre and protein content. Our rice fits their requirement with the wholesome taste of white rice that people are accustomed to, along with high fibre, protein and low glycaemic index (GI),” Paranjothi explained.
Village Rice is milled and packed by Udaya Agro at its premises in Kumbakonam.
Low glycaemic index
“Our rice has a glycaemic index of less than 55, enabling gradual release of glucose, and is also high in magnesium and iron,” Paranjothi said. When boiled, common varieties of brown rice available in the market attain a glycaemic index of 64-68. Without shifting to millets or wheat, consumers of rice can access comparable levels of fibre and protein through the Village Rice variety, he added.
Therefore, as its target customers, the company is focussing on those looking to manage diabetes without having to give up white rice. Since the number of diabetics is rapidly increasing in India, products aimed at this segment are also being launched in large numbers.
“Apart from helping diabetics in managing sugar levels, our product is also for those trying to get rid of constipation that is linked to colon cancer,” Paranjothi said. “Those trying to eliminate obesity are another obvious segment that Udaya Agro is looking at. Our product was recently tested in a Singapore food testing laboratory and got a ‘low glycaemic index rice’ certificate,” he added.
In its export effort, the Kumbakonam company found support from the Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) and is planning to tap new markets gradually in line with its production. “We have stringent quality controls to prevent any contamination and we have been scaling up production gradually,” Paranjothi said.
To cater to young customers with a fondness for processed foods, Udaya Agro has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology. Through this collaboration, it is developing pasta, noodles, bread, (ready-to-eat) chapati and cookies made of rice.
Also in the works is a rice-based ice-cream that does not contain any dairy products. Ready-to-cook or eat versions of traditional food items like lemon rice, tamarind rice, coconut rice, sambar rice, idli-sambar and vegetable pulao are also under trial production through this collaboration.