Things have not been good for Australia’s organic rice farmers for the past few seasons. There has been a shortage of rice available for milling, and we’ve had to bring in both white and brown rice from Thailand.
As you can see in the photos, the organic rice grows in flat fields in a valley in a beautiful mountainous region, which is near Wiang Chai, Chiang Rai.
We are all familiar with the scenes of rice paddies along the terraced hillsides of Thailand and China, however in this case they grow the rice in a valley where the ground has been levelled out to ensure an even coverage of water over the growing crop.
The growers first plant the seedlings into the field of water which protects the rice from temperature extremes during the summer months.
Unlike in Australia, where our farming is very automated with tractors and machinery, they still plant the rice by hand in Thailand, in a way that they have done for hundreds of years. This ancient tradition of rice growing ensures knowledge on how to grow without chemicals and fertilisers is handed down through many generations of experience.
The rice is also harvested by hand. The rice fields are drained prior to harvest so the ground is dry. Once the plant is cut and sheaved (tied into bundles), it will dry in the field, before being taken to the mill for processing.
When first harvested rice still has a hull or outside layer which is removed during the milling process.
As you can see from the large photo inside the mill, the rice steps through several processes including washing, dehusking, destoning and grading. The resulting brown rice will be polished several times to produce white rice, so all the outer hull and bran layer is removed completely. Finally, it will be treated with CO2 to kill any insects that may have made their home in the grains, before being shipped to us at Kialla.
CO2 gassing is a standard practice in the organic industry as it leaves no residue, and prevents nasty surprises on opening your bag to find live insects in your organic rice. In conventional rice growing, any insects would have been poisoned via chemical spraying before the harvest, or during processing.