‘Unauthentic seeds’ blamed for Thailand's humiliating defeat to fragrant Cambodia rice
The Rice Department chief on Thursday blamed “unauthentic rice seeds” for Thailand’s defeat to Cambodia in a global competition for the best fragrant rice this year.
Department director-general Natthakit Khongthip was commenting on the victory of Cambodia’s Phka Romduol rice, which bagged the World’s Best Rice 2022 award at the World Rice Conference in Phuket on last Thursday.
Sixty varieties of rice from all over the world were judged in the competition.
Chukiart Opaswong, honourary president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, said Thai jasmine rice was beaten by just one point by the Cambodian rice because of fragrance. He quoted the American judges as saying the Cambodian rice is more fragrant than Thai jasmine rice.
Thailand’s Khao Dawk Mali 105 is the most well-known exported rice and has always been loved by consumers during the past 60 years since the variety was certified by the Rice Department, Natthakit said.
But, he noted, consumers have complained in recent years that Thai jasmine rice seemed to lose its fragrance, leading to doubts whether the seeds were good quality ones or whether the Khao Dawk Mali 105 variety had been contaminated or had mutated.
Natthakit said that after he assumed his post, he ordered the research and rice variety development division to investigate to find the real cause of Thai jasmine rice losing its pleasant smell.
The director-general said the division found that the seeds provided by the Rice Department did not cause such issues and the rice maintained its famed fragrance, but farmers like to plant rice with seeds from their previous harvests.
Natthakit said the division also found the environment, too, could have affected the fragrance.
He said Khao Dawk Mali 105 should be planted in fertile sandy soil in the Northeast so that the paddy fields dry when the rice flowers start to accumulate powder and develop the 2Acetyl-1-Pyrroline substance that creates fragrance.
Also, if the so-called winter is long with temperatures varying between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius, the fragrance in the rice would stay for a long time and consumers would enjoy it, Natthakit felt.
Farmers must drain their paddy fields seven days after the plants start to flower, he advised.
Jasmine rice should be harvested about 25 to 30 days after flowering and the harvested rice must be kept for no more than five months in cool storage between 20 and 25 degrees to maintain the fragrance, Natthakit added.