The long and short of rice milling

by Emily Wilson
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I REFER TO Tony Evers' article, "The long and short of rice: quality criteria that affects end use" (see World Grain, August 2000, page 12). Most rice varieties grown in the tropical countries of Central and South America are in the limits between medium and long types, according to the USDA classification, ratio of length and width, either in paddy or in white presentation, but when cooking behaves as non-sticky long grain and not as the sticky medium grains.

The U.S. Federal Grain Inspection Service procedures used to grade rice, measure moisture and foreign material, etc., are grouped by length and width types. What procedures should be used with these tropical rice varieties that may be graded as medium but behave as long grain? Maybe the author has any comment or information about other countries that have similar situations?

Alvaro Castillo

Rice milling consultant

Bogota, Columbia

Editor's reply: Tony Evers writes in response to Mr. Castillo's questions: "Rice texture and cooking qualities are often closely related and cooking quality can thus be predicted from the dimensions. This is the basis of the U.S. grading system, which in turn encourages breeders to conform to the types. However, the relationship between the two characteristics is not without exception. The Australians, for example, achieved success with a soft cooking long grained rice.

Although genetic modification allows introduction of features of one type of rice into another, the rice market is very traditional and it is unlikely that grain types that do not conform to the established pattern will rapidly replace, on a large scale, those that do conform. Nevertheless, there may be niche markets in which eating quality is more important than grain length. It is probably better to try to identify such markets than to try to change attitudes.

If your rice varieties are of excellent eating quality for a certain type of meal, it may be worth selling them under individual variety names, or creating a strong brand image so that customers can be certain that they are buying rice with the qualities that they want, even if they do not have the physical appearances of types with the same eating qualities."