Himachal to bring 4,000 hectare land under red rice cultivation in 5 yrs
In a bid to give red rice, which is “on the verge of extinction” a new lease of life, the Himachal Pradesh government has fixed a target to bring around 4,000 hectares of land under its cultivation and produce around 40,000 quintals of the cereal grain annually in the next five years, state Agriculture Minister Virender Kanwar said on Sunday.
At present, the total area under cultivation of red rice -- for which the state government is also trying to get a Geographical Indication tag -- in Himachal Pradesh has been recorded at around 1,100 hectares. The total annual production is 9,926 quintals, with an average of 8-10 quintals/hectare production.
According to the state government, the area under the cultivation of red rice has registered a slight increase from past years due to the sustained efforts of the Agriculture Department.
“With growing health consciousness, and environmental concern, red rice -- probably the earliest of cereal grains that humans started domesticating -- which is on the verge of extinction, are making a comeback,” said Himachal Pradesh Agriculture Kanwar.
An official release said that in the past few decades, farmers’ inclination towards cash crops and high-yielding variety, along with the subsidised supply of fine cereals through the public distribution system, and change in consumer preferences, had led to a decrease in the area under the red rice cultivation. “Due to shifting of farmers to apples and vegetable crop, the area under rice drastically declined in past few decades but the farmers have now returned to the cultivation of this traditional crop,” the minister was quoted in the release.
As per the state government, currently, the red rice -- one of the most ancient crops domesticated about 10,000 years ago -- is cultivated in water-surplus areas under Chirgaon, Rohru and Rampur blocks in Kullu Valley, the high hills of Shimla, Sirmour and Chamba districts, besides parts of Kangra in Himachal.
“Some of these popular varieties of red rice include Chhohartu from Rohru (Shimla district), Sukara from Tiyan (Chamba), Lal Zhini and Red Ramjawain (Kangra), and Jattoo and Matali (Kullu district),” the minister stated.
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