“False bottom” technology increases local rice quality

women using false bottom

The “false bottom” parboiling technology introduced by VCDP is helping rice processors in Niger state to improve quality and market value of their rice.

“Before now, we have to carry our rice to the market and even beg people to buy, for whatever price,” says a rice processor Hajara Mohammed, of the Doko Yegborolo multipurpose cooperative society in Bida, Niger state.

“Now, with the intervention of VCDP teaching us false bottom technology, we don’t have to look for buyers. People come to us even before we finish processing. We can’t even meet their demands.”

VCDP, through processors like Hajara, has improved local rice quality and increased national target for rice production by 55,513 tonnes since the project started implementation in 2015.

The false bottom parboiling technology was introduced to make locally grown rice in Nigeria compete favourably with imported rice from such places as Thailand. Consumers have long since developed a penchant for the long-grain, clean, parboiled imported rice from Thailand.

VCDP introduced farmers to Faro 44, a rice variety known for its long grains. Hajara’s cooperative buys Faro 44 paddy from rice growers in Bida and uses false bottom technology to make the product market friendly that meets international quality standards.

Hajara and over 4,000 women across the project six states have been trained on the use of false bottom parboiling technique. The training changed how Hajara and others processed rice. Previously, she boiled paddy in large vats, which meant some of the rice got burnt, discoloured or broken, reducing its market value and earning it the name “local rice”.

False bottom technology refers to the use of a metal perforated sieve that prevents the paddy from direct contact with the vat bottom. The sieve is placed at the bottom of the vat and a giant lid above it, with water in between. The paddy is placed on top of the sieve. Once the fire is lit and the water begins to boil, vapour goes upward through the sieve to steam the paddy.

The resulting parboiled rice is unbroken, clean and white. The women use de-stoners provided by VCDP to remove stones from the milled rice, and a scale to weigh exact quantity into bags. The cooperatives brand their products for sale, packaged in 5kg, 10kg, 25kg and 50kg bags.

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Hajara using a destoner provided by VCDP

“When you look at our product, you can’t tell the difference between rice from Bida and imported rice from Thailand,” says Hajara. “That’s why our price has gone higher. It is more income for us, more business for us.”

Use of false bottom technology has also helped Hajara reduce the cost of production. Her false bottom vat was modified to sit in a metal cylinder and requires less firewood to provide heat needed to parboil rice. A chute fitted to the vat takes smoke out of the parboiling area. The entire assemblage ensures that heat is conserved and transferred directly to the vat with little loss. A single stick of firewood is enough to parboil half a tonne of rice.

“Before now, we would have to buy firewood of nearly N800 just to parboil one vat of rice. Now, N100 firewood stick is sufficient,” says Hajara

“We’ve been in rice business for more than twenty years with nothing to show for it but within one and half years, IFAD VCDP made us rich. We don’t know how to thank VCDP for helping us make impact in the rice market and earn increased incomes.

“We sit at home and buyers come to us. And now we are expanding our business and employing people [creating jobs] to work and get paid because we need more hands to be able to meet market demand. People want our rice now.”

Hajara’s group and many others have been certified by the government regulatory agency – National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). For Doko Yegborolo is NAFDAC Reg. No.: 08-8179. This certification enables their products to be main-streamed into the formal marketing systems.

 

Credit: Vera Onyeaka-Onyilo