Chakhao, the aromatic black rice of Manipur being cultivated for centuries with traditional practices, was recently awarded the Geographical Indication (GI) tag. A GI status is an indication that identifies products which originate or are produced from a particular area and have the special quality that is attributable to its geographical origin. Darjeeling tea, for instance, produced in Darjeeling, West Bengal.
The application for chakhao was filed by the Consortium of Producers of Chakhao (Black Rice), Manipur, and the research and process was facilitated by the Department of Agriculture of the Government of Manipur, the North Eastern Regional Agricultural Marketing Corporation Limited and the Union Ministry of Development of North Eastern India.
According to the Manipur Small Farmer&rsquos Agri Business Consortium, two popular cultivars of the black rice are Chakhao amubi and Chakhao poireiton. Of the two, the latter is more popular. However, the glutinous or sticky Manipur black rice is not grown commercially but in small pockets. The use of the rice is limited to ritual feasts and festivities.
Although traditionally the rice is served plain, one of the popular dishes now prepared from it is kheer, the popular Indian dessert made from rice and boiled milk.
Although local traditional medical practices include the use of black rice (it is actually deep purple in colour), its nutritional value is now being gradually appreciated. According to experts, the black rice of Manipur has high vitamin and mineral content and is gluten free. It is said that the presence of the pigment anthocyanin, which imparts colour to the rice, also give it strong antioxidant properties. According to Manipur SFAC&rsquos research, black rice consumption contributes to the prevention and management of serious conditions such as atherosclerosis, hypertension high cholesterol levels, arthritis, and other diseases.
It is expected that the GI tag and the renewed interest in the healthy properties of this rice variety will encourage commercial cultivation and marketing across the world.