Vikash Sharma

Rice is the cornerstone of food security in India and a key factor for the economy, said President Droupadi Murmu while addressing the second Rice Congress at ICAR-National Rice Research Institute (NRRI) in Cuttack on Saturday.

According to the President Droupadi Murmu, rice figures prominently in our heritage and culture. Right from the Vedas, several ancient literatures have made references to this grain and its varieties. Various rituals in the country are also incomplete without rice and the first solid food grain given to the child is usually something made of rice, she said.

India is now the leading consumer and exporter of rice in the world but the situation was different in the past. NRRI was established soon after the Bengal famine and just before India won the Independence, said Murmu.

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"In those days, we were dependent on imports. If the nation could bring a change in the scenario, a lot of credit goes to NRRI. For more than 75 years now the NRRI has been working in areas of basis, applied and adaptive research related to paddy while imparting training to various stakeholders," the President said.

According to Murmu, India is proud of its rice biodiversity and which includes varieties of rice too. Every region boasts a unique rice grain of its own with a distinct taste. As irrigation facilities extended, rice is now grown at new places and has found new consumers.

The paddy crop requires a lot of water and there are several areas in world which are facing drought, floods and cyclone due to climate change and thus making rice cultivation more vulnerable. There are places where traditional varieties are facing problems and challenges. However, the traditional rice growers from tribal communities of Odisha have helped conserve unique genetic resources of rice for ages.

Praising the exemplary work of Kamala Pujari of Koraput, Murmu said that she has been collecting and preserving 100 endangered crop varieties including rice and has been awarded Padma Shri for her inspiring initiative.

“NRRI scientists are working on rice varieties that can survive these climatic challenges. Another challenge is to preserve soil from excessive fertilisers. As rice forms the bedrock of food security, we must consider its nutritional aspects too. Large sections of low-income groups depend on rice which is often the only source of daily nutrition for them. Delivering proteins, micro nutrition through rice can help combat malnutrition,” said Murmu.

"India has developed a high-protein rice called CR-Dhan 310 which will help our country’s overall nutrition profile. The NRRI has also released High zinc variety called CR Dhan 315. The development of bio-fortified rice is an example of science in the service in society," Murmu added.