Friday, March 28, 2008
The process of paddy to rice conversion
I prepared a nursery of red nadu rice on November 17th 2007. The seed paddy was purchased from the CIC store in Hingurakgoda, the variety being AT 312, a specially prepared a high yielding variety of the Rice Research Institute and now also grown by CIC. Three bushels, each of 21kg was purchased for Rs 700 ea. I am one of the few to grow this red rice in this area, as most farmers grow white rice.
I transplanted about 2 acres of my property in the first two weeks of December, and it cost me Rs 8000/- to transplant by hand with the female labor rate being Rs 450 a day for this job, the actual work time being 6 hours. The excess rice plants in my nursery were given to two of my neighbors to grow and from whom I agreed to buy the paddy at the prevailing price less Rs 5 Kg to cover my nursery cost.
I put no pesticides or herbicides like pre emergents etc. but used all three varieties of chemical fertilizer obtained as a subsidy from the government at Rs 350 per 50kg bag. The current market price hovering around Rs3,500 per bag. Without the use of the fertilizer the yield will not cover the cost of production, as these rice varieties were developed for use with chemical fertilizer. I am probably the only person not to use pesticides and to that extent I estimate my yield be about 20% less than it could have been. For example if I had used pesticide to kill the paddy fly, I could have saved some part of the stalk, which they suck dry, and results in no seed.
Sadly while this is a selling point for my customers, as I probably have the only pesticide free AT312 rice, I will only be able to get the market price and not the Rs 12 more I need to cover the loss of yield. One cannot blame the farmers for their current practice, as they see no benefit from being free of carcinogens and other harmful chemicals.
I harvested the paddy on March 22nd and 23rd about week after I should have, due to two weeks of unseasonal heavy rain up until that date. I could not hand cut my paddy as the paddy seed would fall in cutting due to the over ripe stalks. This meant I used a machine that cuts the paddy and half threshes it into bags. This man and machine cost me Rs 15,000. My boys had to hand carry the paddy bags from the fields into the kitchen, which was cleared to store the paddy before the cleaning process.
On March 25th we borrowed a tractor from a neighbor with a special fan that has been fitted into the fan belt, and the paddy was cleaned using air pressure. The paddy is sifted by hand while the fan is running and good seed falls into the ground and the half seed and other lighter parts get blown further away and is accordingly separated. (sinhala expression is hulang gahanawa)
The paddy thus cleaned was put into 72 bags, approximately 3,300 kg and I immediately took 9 bags to the mill and 3 bags to a farmer friend of mine for parboiling. The resulting rice, red nadu and rosa nadu turned out ok, but as the paddy had been left too long, the grains tended to break in the milling process. There should be no problem with the parboiled rice in this regard. The miller said that the paddy still needed to be dried. I will have to dry the rest before bagging for storage and later milling. Any paddy with a high moisture content will spoil in storage so it is essential that it is well dried. I had to dry the rice as otherwise that too could get mildewed even though I expect to sell it in the shop or to my delivery customers in the space of a week.
One useful point to note is that for rice that is not parboiled, it is advisable to cut the paddy as it is getting ripe. For parboiling over ripe paddy is OK. For the former any later cutting will result in the grain breaking. Also another noteworthy point is that all red rice can be milled to any shade one wants, all the way to white. That is why a little more milling can result in Rosa, or Rose colored, which is currently more in demand than red.
It costs Rs 2 to mill a kilogram of paddy, which means that each Kg of rice suffers a Rs3 per Kg milling cost.
The other fact is one can make more money in a shorter period and with less effort if one is prepared to trade in Paddy than be a farmer growing paddy. That is a simple fact. Even within this short period of about three weeks the market for paddy has fluctuated to a degree that traders have been able to make more profit per kg of paddy than a farmer.
The only thing the trader needs is access to funds and somewhere to store the paddy that is secure and safe. I therefore will barely break even in my paddy, based on cost of production and current market price but make my profit in selling the rice at a reasonable profit over the next 4 months.