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17/12/2019 - 08:29

"Awakening" sacred rice

Being the quintessential feature of A Luoi mountain and forest with good rice quality and cultural characteristics, Ra Du rice has gradually regained its position thanks to the successful restoration of the original strain and the branding of Ra Du A Luoi rice product.

Ra Du Rice is the staple food crop of A Luoi people

Rice for the bridegroom

Ra Du is not only a staple food crop but also a plant of spiritual significance for the Ta Oi, Co Tu and Paco people in A Luoi upland district.

According to Mr. Kieng Dung, Hong Thuy Commune, A Luoi, the legend has it that the Ra Du rice strain was born from the rock egg the guy Put (god’s son) assigned to his wife, Tưr, before going away. Remembering her husband, she had the egg buried in the ground. Right afterwards, it grew into a vine like a gourd with the trunk which grew quickly, climbed all over the mountain ridges and river banks.

The vine grew quickly until it bloomed, the fruit ripened, and Tưr beat the fruit when countless grains of rice suddenly flowed out. brought rice to the river bank to cook. Rice was cooked into rice with aroma pervading everywhere, and just then the young guy returned.

Tưr distributed this amount of rice among the villagers as seeds that have developed until now. In gratitude to the Put couple, the villagers named the rice strain Ra Du - that is, rice for the bridegroom.

Ra Du rice is grown halfway up the mountain in A Luoi District.

Dr. Nguyen Tien Long, Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry, who has spent 7 years pursuing research on the Ra Du rice strain, said that Ra Du rice is rare because of its sacred legend, and it is also a top quality strain among local rice ones. In the analysis results we track in the last time, in addition to the higher nutrient content compared with common rice strains, Ra Du rice also has a high content of iron, Omega 3, Omega 6 very beneficial to human health.

When the rice is ripe, it is plucked by hand. After plucking, people will not take it home immediately, but they have to perform a ritual to take the rice god home with the wish that they will be blessed with prosperity and happiness.

Ra Du rice is taken home, stored carefully at a high and dry place, or after being pounded, it will be put into the papoose to be placed on the board under the roof. According to the farming calendar of the Ta Oi, Co Tu people, when orchids bloom, Prich birds signal the arrival of sunshine, trees change leaves, and climate gets warmer, the people have a jolly time and hold the new rice worship ceremony.

Harvesting Ra Du rice

Raising the productivity of precious rice strain

Although a high-quality rice strain of historical value, it has gradually died out over time. The quality of rice declined; the productivity only reached 21-23 quintals per ha. Also originating from here, in 2012, the research team of Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry started to study, restore and develop the gene pool of Ra Du specialty rice strain.

According to Mr. Nguyen Tien Long, the research team restored Ra Du rice strain by combining the traditional methods with biotechnology. The application of biotechnology in strain restoration shortened time and soon introduced the super original rice strain source with many good features of productivity and quality.

From this result, the research team collaborated with DIBACO Co., Ltd. to produce Ra Du original rice strain certified to be of grade 1 or grade 2 for people to cultivate. This rice strain replaced the degraded strain sources stored by people to improve productivity and quality. In addition, the research team could assess the resistance to pests, diseases, drought of restored strain so that the technical measures in cultivation can be proposed, studied, and the recommendations and guidance to the people offered.

Along with the restoration work, the research team together with the Truong Son Xanh (Green Truong Son) Project trained the people in the technical process of Ra Du rice strain cultivation in order to raise productivity and quality of rice and enhance economic efficiency, thereby boosting the income for the mountain people. Thanks to the introduction of restored original rice strain, the productivity of rice has been raised from 21 quintals per ha to 31 quintals per ha.

“The staff also instructed us in seasonal cultivation, ways to prune, weed, fertilize and produce organic fertilizer, so the cultivation productivity is on increase. The value of Ra Du rice product, therefore, is many times higher,” said Tran Thi Loan, Hong Thuy Commune, who directly benefits from the program of Ra Du rice strain restoration.

The research team restored Ra Du rice strain

The market expands

Thanks to many outstanding advantages versus other traditional rice strains, Ra Du is popular with many people. The average cost of Ra Du rice is 45-50 thousand VND per kg; the market price for organic Ra Du rice is 55-70 thousand VND per kg. At this selling price, on average, for each ha of Ra Du specialty rice strain, farmers earn about 60 million VND, 3-4 times higher than other rice strains, excluding income from acacia.

With the quality of culturally typical, good rice, Ra Du rice has been identified by A Luoi District as a key local product to build OCOP (One Commune One Product) product.

Mr. Tran Ngoc Chinh, Deputy Head of A Luoi District Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that the whole district has nearly 200 hectares of Ra Du rice, about 50 hectares of which are used to grow the restored original rice strain. According to the support program from the projects, in 2020, the current entire area under cultivation will be fully reserved for the original rice strain.

“Currently, the market for Ra Du rice is quite open. At trade fairs, festivals..., Ra Du rice is always sold out. The district established a cooperative to operate the production and consumption of Ra Du rice product. Coordinating with Truong Son Xanh Project, the district also builds a collective brand for Ra Du A Luoi rice and will complete the collective brand announcement in December. The supermarkets in the area also agreed that after the announcement of the collective brand, they will introduce Ra Du rice into these systems,” Mr. Chinh added.

"Many rare rice strains like De An Cuu rice ... were lost, which inflicts a great pain on the agricultural sector. Therefore, aside from Ra Du rice, we will continue to research and restore other precious rice strains in order to conserve precious gene pool of local specialty products ”, Dr. Nguyen Tien Long said with openness.

Story and photos: Hoang Loan

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