VARANASI, INDIA — The International Rice Research Institute’s (IRRI) South Asia Regional Centre (IRRI SARC) hosted a symposium on ‘Transforming Rice Grain Quality and Nutrition in South Asia,’ inviting private sector representatives from the seed industry, milling, crop protection, agri-digital and genomic services, traders, and the FMCG sector. 

“IRRI SARC, through its suite of modern laboratories and training facilities, is advancing the exchange of technical know-how in rice research, to encourage collaboration between partners in the region, as well as for value addition to rice and rice-based agri-food systems,” said Dr. Arvind Kumar, IRRI SARC director. “By collaborating with the public and private sector we will be able to optimize efforts in rice science, research, nutritional enhancement, and market linkages.”

IRRI Tech Transfer furthered IRRI SARC’s objectives by detailing products and services that can facilitate collaboration with private sector organizations, while aligning with IRRI’s mission goals.

Dr. Nafees Meah, Regional Representative for IRRI-South Asia elaborated on the private sector’s larger role in the rice value chain.

“There is a need for building resilient rice-based systems that can adapt to climate change and water stresses like drought and floods,” Meah said. “Agriculture is transitioning from subsistence to commercial farming across South Asia. Therefore, the private sector has an important role for delivering the sustainable development goals and in particular better nutrition for consumers.”

Dr. Ajay Panchbhai, senior manager of IRRI Tech Transfer, spoke on how they are working to support these goals through education and collaboration.

“IRRI, through IRRI SARC’s Centre of Excellence in Rice Value Addition (CERVA), is offering validation and analytical services for assessing rice grain quality; models for research and development collaboration by way of a consortium; training programs and similarly grain quality and nutritional consultancy services to private sector partners in South Asia,” Panchbhai said.

IRRI SARC fosters South-South cooperation in rice and rice science as a platform working toward strengthening public-private partnerships in agriculture, optimizing technology, resource inputs, processing and market promotion, risk management, knowledge exchange, and training for key stakeholders.

The symposium featured technical sessions on grain quality assessment, sensory evaluation and areas of rice market research, delivered by IRRI experts and grain quality scientists from India, Bangladesh, and Nepal, and also from private sector leaders in the agri-food value chain, rice seed industry, millers, exporters, and FMCG.

Dr. Vijay Kumar Rajoli, Rice - R&D lead for Bioseed Research India Pvt Ltd. highlighted constraints being faced by the hybrid rice seed industry in India, like higher seed cost, less preferred grain quality, and moderate levels of yield gains. He emphasized the need to develop high yielding rice hybrid varieties with acceptable grain quality.

“There is need to have diversified germplasm to develop suitable rice varieties that can cater to needs of Bangladeshi farmers,” said Afzal Husain, senior general manager, Metal Agro Limited. “More intensive training of key stakeholders in advanced technologies will help in bridging rice production gaps in the country.”

Discussions were also held on opportunities for collaboration on advanced research and training for value addition in rice-based agri food systems, seed and grain quality enhancement, and rice breeding.

The symposium also included a visit to CERVA’s suite of laboratories for grain quality assessment, nutritional value, and sensory evaluations for grain taste, texture, and aroma; and a field tour to IRRI’s demonstration field, showcasing the genetic diversity of some of the traditional rice varieties being grown.