Black scented rice (chahaomubi) – the black gold of Manipur

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Prof Ningthoujam Ram Singh
The word Chahaomubi is a combination of three Manipuri words of cha-hao-mubi meaning rice-tasty and black. It is a blackwhole rice plant bearing dark grains. Chahaomubi is also known as Poireiton Chakhao because it was first domesticated by king Poireiton in his land of Poi. Poi is the first generation of Manipur society. After releasing their caves the Poi people established their settled life at the foothills of Nongmaijing in Heirok range (Poireiton Khunthok). Poi or Pui is the origin of Karen, Shan and Tai people of Asia (Shan chronicle). The Chahaomubi or Poireiton Chakhao was migrated form Poirei or Manipur during 400 BC by Buddhist monks in most Asian countries. The rice is a compulsory item of food for all religious ceremonies and festivities in Asia. Naturally, Chahaomubi is an organic rice variety. It is organic in character because there will be no quality of rice if we apply chemicals and inorganic fertilizers on it. It has its own fertilization from its environment and it is also resistant from the emergence of insect and pests.
Chahaomubi is not cultivated widely in Manipur because of ignorant of the farmers. At present, the area and production of Chahaomubi in Manipur state are about 600 hectares and 16, 000 tones respectively. The market price of it is three times of the fine rice in the state. Commercially produced farm of it is not yet developed in the state.
Chahaomubi may be considered as black gold of Manipur because of its scope for earning foreign exchange. The demand for good quality Chahaomubi has been increasing in international market because of its organic in character. The government of India also emphasising on the promotion of organic farming through Parampargat Krishi Vikas Yojana and Organic Value Chain Development in North East India from 2016-17. Under the Start up policy of India Manipur state would have an opportunity to organise Chahaomubi based agri-business activity. The Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture has formulated a scheme for 10th plan for giving a major push to organic farming in the country. The scheme envisage setting up a National Institute of Organic Farming (NIOF) which will be responsible for promotion of organic farming, setting standards wherever necessary, expanding the regulatory mechanism to cover requirements of small and marginal farmers etc. The ministry of commerce and industries will continue to promote export of organic products of organic agriculture necessarily involves a sequence of steps that need to be followed by the growers and verified by certification and inspection agencies. The Ministry of Commerce Government of India has approved the activities of Agriculture and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA).
The importance of Chahaomubi for development of agri-business sector of Manipur state realised from the following facts.
(a) It is ornamental rice and symbol of calmness among all plants.
(b) It is top class royal food and a ritual item for Asian people.
(c) It is useful for protection of pests and diseases on friendly plants.
(d) The by product has economic utility because of its aromatic character.
(e) It is farmer friendly and climate indicator for the state of Manipur.
Manipur is one of the most fertile subtropical rain-fed farming zone of Asia. In fact, history of rice cultivation in Manipur state is as old as about 6,000 years (Phouoibi Langlon). Rice is the staple food for the people of both hill and plain areas of the state. Shifting cultivation in the hills and transplantation of nurseries in the lowland valley areas of the state are the traditional methods of conservation and production of rice in the state since times immemorial. Manipur state is one of the largest wild rice growing areas in the world. Semi-wild rice varieties are widely cultivated in the lake areas as well as in the shifting cultivated areas of the state. Among the different traditional semi-wild varieties, there are numbers of scented and multi-coloured rice varieties. Black Scented Rice of large grain is traditionally improved variety which is cultivated in many pockets of the state. The North-eastern region of India needs to take decision on transition from Central Planning to a market oriented economy. Geographically, the region is very vast endowed with natural resources. The region has abundance of land, forest and water resources, and her mineral resources, soil resources and agro-climatic conditions are very rich and favourable to economic growth based on high value rice. Specialization on diversified crops and livestock according to the different agro-climatic zones of the region are necessary for growth of agriculture and economic development. The nexus between the people and the available resources of a specific area is also needed to achieve the common economic ends as the time is the age of specialisation and competition of globalised economy.
Manipur is a very poor state inhabited by experienced and efficient farmers. Skill of the farmers, the soil and favourable agro-climatic conditions are the main resource of the state. The state has less scope for mineral exploration and viable industries because of the environmental problems. The most feasible and applicable resource utilisation for rapid development of socio-economic condition of the state is in agricultural sector. Food security, employment and income generation are the critical problems of the present Manipur state. Rice being the staple food of man and animals, the people of the state practised rice cultivation from times immemorial. From traditional experiences and modem practices, the farmers of Manipur are most advanced in the cultivation of rice. The impressive agricultural growth of the state will be a vibrant rice sector. In this age of globalization, there will be no place of Manipur in the international market for common rice. Many Asian countries Lao, Myanmar, Thailand, Korea, Vietnam and even India can produce common rice at a very low cost of cultivation when compared to that of the north eastern states of India. In this millennium of value added global market, there is a very bright scope of the export of black scented rice and value addition of it.
From times immemorial Black scented rice (Chahaomubi) is considered as a specific variety of rice and cultivated by selected farmers of Manipur. There is black, red and pink colour of the rice. After cooking, the rice is gummy, glutinous and sweetly scented. Black colour is the highest quality of the rice. By tradition the black scented rice is used as a special food item for religious and cultural ceremonies of Manipur and Myanmar. Rice beer of super special quality is also produced from black scented rice for ritual ceremonies of indigenous people of Manipur. To boil the rice in milk with sugar, spices and other fruits and nuts are the common practices for preparation of tasteful food. There are some varieties of black scented rice in Thailand and Myanmar but the quality of the rice is far below the quality of black scented rice of Manipur. The agro-climatic condition of Manipur valley is the lone unique place for sweet scented glutinous and colourful character of the black scented rice variety.
By nature the state has an opportunity to produce the qualitative black scented rice rather than quantity. The way and means of Manipur state to enter into the global trade is introduction of black scented rice in the rice export of India. Agriculture in northeast India is generally based on the indigenous plants, seeds and animal varieties which are naturally developed with the care of the traditional experiences of the indigenous people. The region needs to preserve the traditional method of agriculture and rural technologies. The sui generis provision of Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights gives World Trade Organisation member states room to develop their own kind to Intellectual Property Right Protection (IPR) for plant varieties and many nations are now changing their natural IPR laws. Rights over biodiversity can be articulated legislation of India and it is our conviction that the plant rights of Chahaomubi Black Scented Rice of Manipur will be linked to IPR and will result in new and further monopoly rights of the state over the plant variety.
Chahaomubi is now one of the most demanded raw materials for agro based industries in Manipur. The value addition of Chahaomubi has been increasing in the state.
(To be contd)

Source: The Sangai Express

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