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The spreading fragrance of Purvanchal’s Kalanamak rice

With encouragement from the Krishi Vigyan Kendra and availability of improved varieties of the species of Kalanamak rice, and the optimal climatic conditions and fertile soil of the region, farmers in Purvanchal [Eastern part of Uttar Pradesh state] are producing the most aromatic and nutritious Kalanamak rice. Basti district is among the 11 districts listed by the Government of India as an original Kalanamak-producing district in the country.

Uttar Pradesh— For the farmers in UP’s Purvanchal region, the kharif paddy crop has particular significance among the three main crops of wheat, paddy and sugarcane that they grow. The fertile soil, and the deposition of alluvial soil here by the flowing rivers, the suitably moist climate and the availability of natural water sources in Basti and the other surrounding districts make for bountiful conditions for paddy cultivation in this area. Grown in paddy fields edging the foothills here, the Basti district is setting new records in the production of the aromatic and nutritious kalanamak (black husk/salt) rice here. Among the many tributaries of the rivers that flow through this region are the Rawai, Manwar and Manorama. The river Aami is a major tributary of the Rapti river, flowing in the southeast direction along the southern boundaries of the district. The Ami forms a major part of the drainage system of paddy agricultural land here.

Kalanamak paddy [Photo Credits - Wikipedia Commons]
Kalanamak paddy [Photo Credits – Wikipedia Commons]

The moment the topic of kalanamak rice arises, thoughts of a soft and fragrant rice grain starting wafting in the mind. In most ordinary homes, this rice is served on occasions such as, for example a significant ceremony, marriages and auspicious programmes. In the market, it is not easy to sell kalanamak rice, which is even more expensive than pro-level rice like sambar, basmati, etc., as part of one’s everyday foods.

Vijendra Bahadur Pal (64), a progressive farmer from Basti district, and winner of the national Innovative Farmer Award for his distinctive contribution to the agriculture sector, said that the paddy crop grows rapidly in cold weather, but when it is hot, the paddy crop becomes limp. Farmer Vijendra Bahadur Pal, like last year, also planted 6 bighas (2 acres) of kalanamak paddy this year. He told The Mooknayak, “I obtained 18kg of SL3 kalanamak paddy seed from Krishi Vigyan Kendra–Basti for 6 bighas. It was sown in the nursery on June 6, 2022, and transplanted on July 31, 2022.”

Kalanamak rice plants [Photo: Rajan Choudhary, The Mooknayak]
Kalanamak rice plants [Photo: Rajan Chaudhary, The Mooknayak]

Pal explains, “I never use manure as fertilizer in my fields. I only use chemical fertilizers. This time the rains have been irregular, still I am expecting a yield of about 4 quintals of kalanamak in one bigha. Last time too I grew 24 quintals of kalanamak paddy in 6 bighas.”

Due to the lack of rains in the Kharif crop season this year, the farmers are certainly worried about their yield. But with the rainfall that has happened during the withdrawal of the monsoon, hopes regarding their yield have risen.

When asked about the sales of kalanamak paddy in the market after the harvest, Pal told The Mooknayak, “Last year, I sold my 24 quintals of kalanamak paddy directly from my house right here. Many of my acquaintances, relatives, district agricultural scientists, people from the village living in Delhi-Mumbai, they all bought my kalanamak rice. So I was never concerned about its sale. Isold the kalanamak at the rate of Rs.100 per kg.”

The price of black salt rice on Amazon is more than Rs 300 per kg [Photo Credits - Amazon Official Website]
The price of black salt rice on Amazon is more than Rs 300 per kg [Photo Credits – Amazon Official Website]

Market price of kalanamak rice

Regarding the market rate of kalanamak rice, it is sold in the shops from Rs.100 to Rs.150-200 per kg. If you check out the prices in the online marketplace, the kalanamak rice sold in well-designed packets, under a brand name costs Rs.300 per kg or even higher.

Brihaspati Pandey, Director of Siddharth Farmer Producer Company and a National ICAR Award winner, said, “Earlier the kalanamak rice [that was grown here] were indigenous [varieties], but in recent years, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research [ICAR] selected Basti [as the area where] it has been continuously developing many other varieties of kalanamak paddy.”

“This year [2022], Krishi Vigyan Kendra– Basti has been conducting research on 24 new varieties of kalanamak paddy at. Last year [2021], 14 varieties [were developed],” Pandey further explained.“Those varieties have not yet been named. The kalanamak paddy that is planted in the nursery here is given a code. The types of paddy on which research is done, the trials run for about seven years on them.” “Kalanamak rice is a crop only of the Purvanchal region of UP. When testing the new varieties sown here, data is prepared on factors such as Purvanchal’s soil conditions, diseases affecting the plants, the local climate, differences in fragrance, production, length of plants etc. This data is sent to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. The good-quality varieties among all these are released for the farmers to plant in the fields. Recently, two improved varieties have also been released in Basti district. Both these varieties are dwarf species. Earlier, farmers used to suffer kalanamak crop losses because of the tallness of the plants. The plants would break with the slightest breeze, which had a big impact on production. However, these two varieties do not have this problem. The grains of this variety of kalanamak rice are as aromatic and delicious as the native kalanamak rice. The yield is also higher,” Pandey said as we finished talking.

The Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Basti [Photo: Rajan Choudhary, The Mooknayak]
The Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Basti [Photo: Rajan Chaudhary, The Mooknayak]

Krishi Vigyan Kendra incentivising farmers to cultivate kalanamak

This year, a new improved variety of kalanamak paddy has been sown in 2 hectares in the nursery at Krishi Vigyan Kendra – Basti. The kalanamak paddy prepared from this sowing will be distributed among the farmers in the form of paddy seeds at a subsidised price at the government rate. Last year, in 2021, about 26 quintals of kalanamak paddy seeds were distributed among the farmers. Farmers from other districts of UP also come here for the kalanamak paddy seeds. In 2021, the kalanamak paddy seeds were distributed to the farmers at the rate of about Rs.65 per kg.

Agricultural Scientist, Crop Protection, Dr. Prem Shankar of Krishi Vigyan Kendra Basti, and The Mooknayak journalist Rajan Chaudhury
Agricultural Scientist, Crop Protection, Dr. Prem Shankar of Krishi Vigyan Kendra Basti, and The Mooknayak journalist Rajan Chaudhury

Krishi Vigyan Kendra – Basti Agricultural Scientist, Crop Protection, Dr. Prem Shankar informed The Mooknayak, “In 2021, Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) – Basti received the national award for the best performance from among 739 Krishi Vigyan Kendras across India. It is due to our advanced technological research methods and working collaboratively with the farmers that we have achieved the top position in the cultivation and production of kalanamak paddy.”

“When the GI [geographical indication] tag is put on a farmer’s produce, it guarantees the high quality of their produce. Like the ISI [Indian Standards Institute] and AGMARK [Agricultural Mark] mark, similarly to those, if a kalanamak product carries the GI tag, then the farmers have a measure of the quality of their kalanamak crop. It is a matter of pride for our farmer colleagues in Basti district that their kalanamak crop carries the GI tag approved by the Government of India,” Prem Shankar said.

A nursery at Krishi Vigyan Kendra – Basti full of ready paddy of an improved variety of kalanamak [Photo- Rajan Chaudhary, The Mooknayak]
A nursery at Krishi Vigyan Kendra – Basti full of ready paddy of an improved variety of kalanamak [Photo- Rajan Chaudhary, The Mooknayak]

Agricultural scientist Dr. Prem Shankar has appealed to their farmer colleagues in the district that they should focus on transplanting the new improved variety of kalanamak paddy and stop using the older, traditional paddy varieties. Because the climate and soil conditions in the district are highly suitable for this rice crop. With this, farmers’ income and yield will increase.

Last year in 2021, a new variety of aromatic kalanamak paddy was made available to the farmers of Basti district by the Krishi Vigyan Kendra – Basti to cultivate on a large scale. Under the guidance of the Kendra, the kalanamak paddy was transplanted into about 500 hectares by the farmers and 500 hectares under the supervision of the Kendra.

Black salt Rice cultivation in Basti district [Photo- Rajan Chaudhary, The Mooknayak]
Black salt Rice cultivation in Basti district [Photo- Rajan Chaudhary, The Mooknayak]

This year, kalanamak paddy has been transplanted over about 5,000 bighas

Due to the suitability of Basti district’s climate and fertile soil conditions for high yields of kalanamak paddy, the farmers here are increasingly motivated to grow kalanamak paddy. In 2022, the Krishi Vigyan Kendra’s efforts to spread crop awareness, and provide training and improved quality seeds among the farmers of the district, led to kalanamak paddy being transplanted in about 5,000 bighas (1,254hectares) in the district.

GI tag forkalanamak producing areas

The kalanamak rice producting Basti district is among the 11 districts which have been declared as a district of origin of kalanamak rice and accorded a GI tag by the Government of India. With the GI tag, the farmers here producing this rice can also export their kalaknamak rice internationally.

The GI tag was granted for the rice by the Government of India in 2012. This tag delineates the distinct geographical region in which kalanamak rice can be produced. Officially, only the kalanamak rice grown in this defined region can be labelled as kalanamak rice. The GI tag is used for delineating geographical regions for agricultural, natural and manufactured goods. The geographical region in which kalanamak rice is grown is located in UP between North latitude 26° 42′ North latitude and 27° 75′ North latitude and between the 81° 42′ East longitude and 83° 88′ East longitude.

Eleven districts in UP have been approved by the Government of India and given a GI tag to produce kalanamak rice. These 11 districts are Deoria, Gorakhpur, Maharajganj, Basti, Sant Kabir Nagar, Siddharth Nagar, Bahraich, Balrampur, Gonda, Kushinagar and Shravasti. It is worth noting that the kalanamak rice produced by the farmers of in these districts is distributed all over India and exported to other countries as well.

Kalamak's Nursery [Photo: Rajan Chaudhary, The Mooknayak]
Kalamak’s Nursery [Photo: Rajan Chaudhary, The Mooknayak]

Nutritional value  of kalanamak rice

Kalanamak rice is rich in micronutrients such as iron and zinc. Therefore, this rice is considered suitable for the prevention of nutritional deficiency diseases.

Regular consumption of kalanamak rice is said to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. It contains 11% protein, which is almost twice that of common rice varieties. It also has a low glycaemic index (49% to 52%), which makes it relatively sugar-free and suitable for people with diabetes.

Let us remind you that the Government of India introduced its Nutri-Farms Scheme in 2013, which aims to promote food crops that provide important micronutrients, to improve the nutritional status of the weaker sections of the society. Kalanamak rice was one of the nutritious crops selected for this scheme.

यहाँ हिन्दी में भी पढ़ें पूर्वांचल के कालानमक चावल की खुशबू पूरे देश में फ़ैल रही

[Story Translated By Lotika Singha]

Rajan Chaudhary
Rajan Chaudhary
Journalist, The Mooknayak | Email: rajan.chaudhary@themooknayak.in

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