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Cathy Rich Memorial Food Processing Training  Centre - Rice Based Products Development

On June 15 and 16 2007 the Cathy Rich Memorial Food Processing Training Centre (CRC) held an exhibition that showcased the technology and processes that they used to develop their line of rice based products. The CRC focuses on providing training and technical support to micro and small scale entrepreneurs involved in the food sector and the exhibition was conceived as a way to promote rice products to an island wide audience. In Sri Lanka rice being the staple food constitutes the single most important crop occupying nearly 29% of the total agricultural land. The rice sector employs about half of the total agricultural labor force (about 16% of the total labour force). Rice accounts for approximately 25% of the consumer goods basket, about 75% of total grain consumption and 45% of caloric intake in the country. There has been a steady increase of rice production in Sri Lanka from 1940 to 1990 leading to near self-sufficiency in feeding the population of 19 million. The rise has been attributed to increased area under cultivation, increased irrigation, improved seed varieties, increased fertilizer application and higher prices for rice.

About 1.8 million farm families are engaged in rice cultivation. The product is therefore a major component of the agriculture sector in particular and the overall economy in general. Increasingly the rice sector is facing severe competition from grain imports such as wheat flour, and this coupled with the fact the majority of the rice is sold in the primary form without much processing or value addition makes the sector vulnerable. In order to address this gap many national research and development institutes are testing the viability of developing rice based products.

The Cathy Rich Centre has been testing the ability to add value to rice based food production and launched 40 rice based products at the exhibition. Rice flour has positive nutritional attributes, but is a relatively difficult product to work with from a processing standpoint, as compared to wheat flour. Some of the main benefits and challenges of using rice flour are:

Benefits of using rice flour

  • Potential to increase the rice farmers’ income by increasing value.
  • Readily available in Sri Lanka and consumption rates of the primary form are high – there is scope for home-grown demand that can increase competitiveness of rice based products.
  • Higher digestible protein in rice flour than wheat flour.
  • Lower calorie content compared with wheat flour.
  • High fiber content.
  • Can possibly save foreign exchange expenditures.

Challenges of using rice flour

  • Low gluten content, making products hard to bind, products break up easily. This results in many processors using artificial additives (that are expensive) to compensate for the absence of gluten.
  • Flour from smaller mills/producers has coarser grains that make the product harder to work with.
  • Perception among consumers that wheat flour is of better quality (related to problem with binding properties of rice flour).
  • Lack of coordination between different levels of the agribusiness value chain, to address supply and demand issues.
  • Customers’ reluctance to try new products.
  • Lack of marketable products that attract the attention of consumers

To address the challenges to rice flour products development, the CRC staff and researcher centered on how to develop products that were of good quality, nutritious, tasty, visually appealing and produced in a cost effective way. The researchers through an iterative process formulated various recipes using rice flour as a main ingredient or as a substitute for wheat flour and experimented with these by using various processing methods, until the most cost effective and labour efficient way was devised. The products were then tested on centre staff and outside visitors for visual and taste appeal.

The key features of the rice product development process included:

  • Ingredient selection
  • Regulations
  • Formulation
  • Food safety
  • Processing methods
  • Product costing and pricing: direct and indirect costs

Some of the rice based products are:

  • Checker Cookies
  • Chocolate Biscuit
  • Chocolate Roll Cake
  • Donuts
  • Pastries
  • Breads
  • Hot Dog Rolls
  • Cinnamon Roll
  • Ice Cream
  • Milk Pudding
  • Swiss Rolls
  • Chocolate Chiffon Cake

The exhibition offered an opportunity for the centre to exchange knowledge and collaborate with government, farmers, the corporate sector, researchers, marketing institutions and the NGO/INGO sector for the optimal benefit of new innovations in value addition in rice based products. Since the exhibition the CRC has initiated a new training programme in rice products and is working with various NGOs/INGOs and government agencies to train small and medium entrepreneurs in the in ways to adopt this new technology. In spite of the challenges, the centre is very optimistic, that small and medium scale entrepreneurs can improve their income earning with these rice based products.

CRC Contact Information: Tel. 047-223-0248/0777324162 Email: catrih@sltnet.lk


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