Rice is the major celebrity in many Nigerian parties (hello, Party Jollof) and the perfect Sunday-afternoon meal in many Nigerian homes. This grain that can be seasoned with curry, prawns, veggies or stir-fried may be the world’s most famous staple as it continues to be consumed by billions of people around the world at least once a day in one form or the other.
Rice can be consumed as a whole grain or as noodles, produced into convenience foods like rice crackers or rice Krispies, not to mention in its liquid form, as oil for cooking or wine, as in Sake.
If you are not a rice farmer, you may not have thought of the rigorous process it takes for rice to go from planting to consumption. In this farming in Nigeria series, we will be taking a look at rice farming and the different stages rice go through before it ends on your plate.
Stage 1: Seed Selection
The most important first step in rice farming is to select the highest possible quality of rice seeds, that is, seeds that are free of weed seeds, seed-borne diseases, and pathogens. Rice farmers also select a variety that is suitable for the environment it will be grown in.
Stage 2: Land Preparation
If you want to harvest a fine grain quality, this stage is an absolute must. Land preparations for the rice planting include tillage, plowing and harrowing in other to ensure seeds are planted at the right depths.
Stage 3: Planting
Next comes the actual planting. In more developed countries, rice farming is highly mechanized and rice seeds may be planted from the air. That’s right, airplanes distribute the rice on the field called Paddy fields.
The seeds may also be planted first on seedbeds before it is transplanted seedling by seedling to wet fields. This process is labor intensive.
Stage 4: Crop Management
In other to avoid staunched growth and pests overtaking the rice farm, farmers must use the right water management techniques, weed control and apply herbicides.
Stage 5: Harvesting
Usually, the rice crop reaches maturity after 105 – 150 days after which it’s harvested.
Harvesting can be done manually with the use of sickles and knives, while mechanical harvesting requires the use of reapers or harvesters.
Rice harvested is threshed to separate the grain from the husk before it is cleaned.
Stage 6: Drying
Just as seed selection is the most important first pre-planning step, drying is also the first most critical step postharvest.
The drying process reduces the grain moisture content to a level that is safe for storage. Incomplete drying will result in grain losses.
Stage 7: Storage
Grain is moved to storage to protect it from moisture, insects, rodents, and weather. A good storage space should include ease of loading and unloading, efficient use of space and proper storage hygiene.
Stage 8: Milling
The purpose of milling is to remove the husk from rice and produce grains that are edible and free from impurities.
If only the husk is removed, brown rice is revealed. If it’s further milled or polished, the bran layer is removed and you get white rice.
Stage 9: Packaging and Sale
After these rigorous stages, rice is packaged and moved to the point of sale where consumers purchase it and this is where it gets interesting.
Stage 10: Sweet Delicacies
Rice is then garnished with spices, prawns, peppered sauce (yum yum), stew, snail and served on your plate where you eat it with delight!
The journey is long but with billions of people consuming rice on a daily basis, rice farming is so worth it.
Will you like to support a rice farmer in Nigeria? Click here to sponsor one of our rice farms.