BARIO Rice has often been regarded as one of the finest types of rice in Sarawak.
Grown in the cool climate of the highlands at an elevation of above 1,200 metres, in the past the rice was apparently only eaten by the longhouse chief on special occasions.
The fine elongated grains with a soft texture and mild aroma have always been a treat in our household.
Because it is a laborious process to plant and harvest the rice by hand using age-old traditional methods, the pesticide- and chemical fertiliser-free rice has always commanded a premium price. And rightly so.
The State government has allocated RM17 million for the Bario Rice Development Project involving 18 hectares of land in the highlands of Bario.
The project, which began last year, will run until 2015 and is among the efforts to promote Sarawak’s own varieties of rice.
You see most of these rice varieties are grown organically. Yes, Sarawak’s best is actually the best for you too.
Consumers these days are more discerning and realise the health value of natural products — something our ancestors knew all along, but that’s another story.
Anyway, what could be more natural than the rice planted in our villages without chemical fertilisers and pesticides?
Another variety being promoted by Padi Beras Nasional (Bernas) is Bajong — a purplish fragrant variety planted in Lubok Nibong, Betong.
As health experts are always pointing out that coloured foods have better nutritional value, this is another variety which we can market at a premium.
Biris from Simunjan is also a fragrant rice. It requires little irrigation and fertiliser because this variety makes good use of nutrients naturally in the soil.
There are apparently over 100 varieties of rice grown in Sarawak, with other notable types being Bali, Mamut, Selasih, Katek Merah, Lemak and Kenawit.
Most of Sarawak’s local rice varieties need very little irrigation and as they have been planted for generations, they have become naturally resilient and need very little pesticides.
Let’s support these efforts to promote Sarawak’s best rice by making sure that we consume more of it too.
Hopefully by adding our own local varieties every day, we can definitely achieve the target of reducing our rice imports to around 30 per cent by 2020.
The report from the New Straits Times:
Bario — best rice in the state
BATANG LUPAR: For thousands of years, the natives of Sarawak have planted various types of rice. The most well known is the Bario.
Bario rice is planted in the highlands and is regarded as the best rice in Sarawak.
It is grown at an elevation of more than 1,000m. Previously, the rice was said to be eaten by longhouse chiefs only on special occasions.
Today, however, the rice is commercially grown. Farmed by the Kelabit people in Bario, the rice is softer and more elongated than other common types of rice. Planting Bario rice is a very labour-intensive process, and this is reflected in the high prices that it fetches in the market.
Fertilisers and pesticides are not required for cultivation, so it is regarded as an organic product.
Another type of rice is the Bajong which is a fragrant variety planted by the traditional rice farmers of Lubok Nibong in the Betong division. It is purplish in colour and has a distinctive taste and texture.
Bajong can grow well in the highlands as well as low-lying rain-fed areas. Beras Biris originates from the rice farms of Simunjan in Samarahan division.
Biris is a fragrant traditional rice variety and was known as Beras Wangi Simunjan because of its strong aroma.
There is not much need for irrigation and farmers do not use much fertiliser as Biris is a traditional tall variety which has a better ability to make use of the soil nutrients for growth.
Too much fertiliser results in an increase in plant height but not yield and causes the plant to fall to the ground under the increased weight.
This type of rice can only be planted once a year from September to October because it needs sufficient sunlight for growth.
There are more than 100 varieties of rice grown in Sarawak. Besides the Bario, Biris and Bajong, the Bali, Mamut, Selasih, Katek Merah, Lemak and Kenawit can also be found in many of the local markets.
Most of these varieties do not need fertilisers and need very little irrigation. Because they have been planted for so long, they have also become naturally resilient to the environment and need very little pesticides.