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Magic rice set for US debut

The indigenous boka chaul, which was recently given the Geographical Indication (GI) tag, is expected to make its American debut soon with a Los Angeles-based non-resident Indian (NRI) businessman showing interest in promoting Assam's magic rice in the US.

By Gaurav Das in Guwahati
  • Published 23.08.18
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Boka chaul

Guwahati: The indigenous boka chaul, which was recently given the Geographical Indication (GI) tag, is expected to make its American debut soon with a Los Angeles-based non-resident Indian (NRI) businessman showing interest in promoting Assam's magic rice in the US.

Nalbari-based Lotus Progressive Centre (LPC), a local NGO involved in the promotion and preservation of native variety of rice across 45 villages in and around Nalbari district, told The Telegraph that Nitin Patel, a Gujarati NRI, had contacted them for promoting the rice in the US.

The boka chaul or Assamese soft rice is unique as it does not require any cooking. It can be eaten by just soaking it in water at room temperature. It is known for its nutritious content and is recommended during pregnancy. It is also consumed during hot and humid summer days as it cools the stomach.

"The NRI businessman, who deals in rice in the US, contacted us after getting the news that boka chaul had got the GI tag. He said he was keen to promote it in the US and would, as a pilot initiative, buy five to six kilos to promote it in restaurants owned by his friends there," said Hemanta Baishya, a farming expert and coordinator for LPC.

Baishya said since agricultural produce cannot be dispatched via courier, Patel had offered that the rice could be sent through his brother who is a businessman based at Surat in Gujarat and who regularly exports things to the US.

"We will send the rice soon and have asked farmers in Nalbari to process it properly. Boka chaul requires careful processing while farming. If anything goes wrong, it can affect the quality of the rice. Patel said if the pilot promotion is successful, he would order in bulk. He also asked about the total area of cultivation of boka chaul in Nalbari," Baishya said.

According to LPC, Nalbari has around 70,000 hectares of agricultural land of which 3,500 hectares (five per cent) is solely dedicated to the cultivation of boka chaul. Around one tonne boka chaul paddy or 1.2-1.3 tonnes of rice are cultivated in a hectare.

Boka chaul is a winter rice or sali which is sown in the third and fourth week of June. It is mostly cultivated in Nalbari, Barpeta, Goalpara, Baksa, Kamrup, Dhubri, Kokrajhar and Darrang districts in lower Assam.

It is categorised under class 30 of agricultural goods which includes tea, coffee and cereals.

The LPC and the Centre for Environment Education (CEE) had applied for GI registry of boka chaul in 2016.