Adding Value – A Look at the Future of Rice in Guyana

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As the largest lender to Guyana’s agricultural industry and a strong supporter of the rice sector, GBTI is excited by the many opportunities that the future holds for Guyanese rice farmers and producers.

Perhaps the most promising of these opportunities is the development of value-added rice products. This was the focus of a recent forum hosted by the Guyana Rice Development Board in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture.

At this forum, various presenters discussed the investments that Guyana has recently made in the development of the country’s rice value chain and offered an exciting look at where Guyana’s rice industry could be headed. Read on to learn more about what value-added rice is and why it matters.

What is value-added rice?

Grown on every single continent (except Antarctica), rice is one of the world’s most important staple crops. It is a foundational element in the diet of over half the world’s population. Rice is most commonly consumed as a simple grain. However, it has the potential to be so much more through the practice of value-adding.

Essentially, as the name implies, the term “value-added” refers to any process or action that increases the value of a particular product. Value-added rice, therefore, is the term for rice that has undergone further processing to generate new products and by-products. These, in turn, are able to command a higher price than rice in its simplest form.

What are some examples of value-added rice products?

Depending on the type and complexity of the additional processing it undergoes, rice can be turned into an incredibly diverse array of products. These include:

1. Quick-cooking or instant rice

One of the simplest ways to add value to rice is simply to partially (or fully) cook it in advance, then dry it and package it. This can make rice much more convenient and accessible to the consumer. It can be cooked in a fraction of the time needed to cook unprocessed rice.

2. Fortified rice

Another simple value-added technique for rice is fortification. This is the process of adding vitamins and other nutrients to basic rice in order to enhance its nutritional value.

3. Rice flour

Made from ground raw rice, rice flour is a highly versatile value-added product with a wide range of applications. From a producer’s perspective, the advantage of rice flour is that it can be made from many different types of rice (long, medium, or short grains, for example).

Rice flour can also be made from broken rice that might otherwise be discarded as waste. It can be sold as a product in its own right, or can be used as the basis for many other foods, such as rice noodles, bread or baking mixes, and rice crackers.

4. Rice starch

Rice starch is similar to rice flour. It can likewise be produced from different types and grains of rice, as well as whole or broken rice. However, a different process is used to produce it.

Rather than grinding, rice starch extraction requires the rice to be soaked in an alkaline solution. This slowly dissolves the rice protein and releases the rice starch. Rice starch is often used as a thickening additive in products like baby food. It can be used in non-food applications as well, such as paper production.

5. Rice bran oil

When the bran and germ portions of a grain of rice are removed during the milling process, they can undergo further processing to produce rice bran oil. It is used for cooking, salad dressings, and sometimes even as a nutritional supplement.

Rice bran oil has a high smoke point, making it ideal for applications like deep frying. It is also high in vitamin E and beneficial antioxidants.

How could the production of value-added rice benefit Guyana?

Guyana’s agricultural industry has long been focused on rice, which is the country’s largest exported agricultural commodity. In 2018, according to the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), the country produced 627,327 metric tons of rice. Of this, 74 percent was exported. It’s only in recent years, however, that Guyana has made a significant effort to explore the development of value-added rice products.

As explained at the recent GRDB/Ministry of Agriculture forum, expanding the rice industry to include value-added products could provide a host of benefits and opportunities to Guyana. As rice consumption grows around the world, there is expected to be a gradual but definite shift from traditional subsistence food crop production to a greater market interest in value-added products.

Continuing research and investment into value-adding could therefore help Guyana to diversify its local products and enhance marketability. Additionally, it could create more employment opportunities and boost income levels for rice farmers and other parties on the production chain.

In addition, by introducing value-added rice products for local use—for example, by using rice flour to make domestic baked goods—Guyana can decrease its dependence on foreign imports such as wheat flour. This would also help give the country an economic boost.