Navara rice growers seek government support

Thiruvananthapuram: Farmers engaged in the cultivation of "Navara" rice, a unique endemic crop native to Kerala with high medicinal properties, are facing crisis due to lack of marketing network and absence of remunerative price for the product.

Navara rice associated with Ayurveda and considered to be an energetic food for people of all ages was the first farm product that received Geographical Indication Registration in the country considering its importance.

"It is now mainly grown in Palakkad in an area of 30 acres and total production is about 10 to 15 tonnes per year", Navara Rice Farmer`s Society President P Narayanan Unny told PTI here. Farmers were not taking up cultivation of the rice inspite of high demand owing to poor marketing network and absence of remunerative price, he said. The farmers, who cultivate organic Navara rice, were not getting buyers as the crossed varieties grown with chemical fertilisers were cheap, he pointed out.

"What we need is certain marketing support to sell the product at a competitive price with that of other rice variety. It is cultivated mainly in Palakkad and only about 10 farmers remain in this field now.

A few farmers in Malappuram and Kozhikode were also engaged in Navara cultivation. The production cost of this particular variety was high compared to other rice items. The retail price of Navara was also high at around Rs 350 to Rs 400 per KG, he said..

Expressing concern over the availability of less quality navara rice grown using non-organic methods, K R Appukuttan Nair, who runs Bodhi Ayurveda Resort at Theyakatssery in Alappuzha district, said it was not easy to identify between the original and other variety.

Nair, who cultivates about 100 KG Navara rice in his own paddy field for his Ayurveda treatment, said government should do something to preserve and encourage this rare variety, which has high medicinal value. Productvity per acre of this variety was also less compared to other rice species, Nair added.

Unny, who heads a Navara Eco Farm in Chittur in Palakkad district, said there was demand for navara due to its rich medicinal value. It was widely used for doing `Navara Kizhi" and "Navara Theppu" (massages) for diseases like arthritis and paralysis. The rice was virtually a way to wellness, he said.

When consumed regularly in the form of the Navara porridge, it helps to build immunity against various ailments, he said. Referring to the high production cost, he said rice cultivated purely on organic farming method has high medicinal value and it can be grown only once in a year.

In Ayurveda text, it is known as the `Shashtika` rice due to its short duration of just 60 days to grow and mature, he added. On efforts taken by the Navara Farmers to preserve the variety, he said it has taken considerable ingenuity and persistence to develop the unique farming methodology.

On the Eco Farm, he said it has a tradition of 100 years and could be considered as the world`s largest Navara farm. Farmers of Palakkad recently organised a Navara Utsav-12 to create an awareness about the "wonder rice" and also to promote its cultivation.