Dominican rice, hope in every grain
An annual grass plant (Oryza sativa) the rice develops in humid soil, submerged in water. Its roots are slender, fibrous and fascicular, with an erect stem made up of nodes and internodes, where a bud and a leaf are formed. The latter are flat sheets and are connected at the stem by a pod; its inflorescence is formed by a panicle. The size of the plant varies from 0.4 meters (dwarves) up to 7.0 meters (floating). The grain of rice is the ripe ovary while the hulled grain with the brown pericarp is integral rice, which when polished becomes white rice.
Rice is among the four most widely consumed staple foods in the world, positioned after wheat; it is considered a dietary staple for more than half the world population. The Asian continent alone produces and consumes 90% of world production, but it is also a staple food in parts of Latin America.
The plant is originally from the southern Himalayas, where favorable conditions exist for this crop and where thousands of wild varieties existed. However, it is estimated that the cultivation of rice in China took place around the 15th century BC, from where it was introduced in Korea, Japan and the Philippines, arriving in the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia 350 years BC. The Arabs introduced it in the Iberian Peninsula during the 8th century. Its name comes from the Arabic word “ar-ruzz”. Columbus brought the cereal to America and it was introduced in Hispaniola in 1512.
Rice is a tropical and sub-tropical crop. Originally, it was a dry-land plant but through mutations turned into a semi-aquatic plant. It is mainly cultivated in irrigated or water-logged soil, which is very favorable, since the part that surrounds the plant’s root system is characterized by lack of oxygen. After harvest it produces new shoots that give origin to a second crop known as sprouts. Rice is cultivated from sea level to 2,500 meters in altitude. Ideal temperature for germination ranges from 30 to 35 degrees Celsius, with a minimum of 10 to 13 degrees Celsius for its development. The growth of the stem, leaves and roots will reach optimum point at 23 degrees Celsius. It can be cultivated in several types of soils, varying in texture from sandy to clay. Heavy-textured soils are preferred for their capacity to retain water. A pH level of 6.6 is optimum for rice, since it defines the acidity and alkalinity conditions. The irrigation system used in rice fields can vary from static, recirculation and water collection. Rice farmers choose the system that adapts best to their needs.
The Oryza genus includes several wild plants and two cultivated species: the Oryza Sativa of Asian origin and the Oryza Glaberrina native to the Niger River delta in Africa. The Sativa variety is the most cultivated worldwide. At the same time, three sub-species differentiate the Oryza Sativa: the Indica variety, which is cultivated in humid, submerged or lowlands of tropical and sub-tropical climates; the Javanica variety, a short or medium grained sub-species that mainly grows in Indonesia and the Philippines, and the Japonica which refers to those small-grain varieties cultivated in temperate zones. The main varieties are: white rice, which has an elongated grain and the husk and bran have been removed; brown rice, which preserves most of the cuticle that covers the grain and has a brownish color; red rice of Asian origin in which the grains have a red bran layer; black rice of Asian origin, rich in vitamin B and trace minerals, with a thin black bran layer that encloses a white grain. Whole-wheat rice contains an important amount of dietary fiber. Rice bran, a by-product of rice, is used as animal feed.
Rice planting and production in Dominican Republic
Rice is considered a staple food for the population of the Dominican Republic, with an annual consumption per capita of 45 to 50 kilograms. This demand is supplied by national production, which reached 12.1 million quintals in 2011. The varieties cultivated in our country are insensitive to photoperiod, therefore, the cereal can be planted throughout the whole year. Two main planting seasons exist, but better results are obtained during the December through April season, than from June to August.
Cultivation regions are: central Cibao, the Northeast, the lower Yuna, the northwestern border, San Juan de la Maguana and the East (Miches, Nisibon, Sabana de la Mar). The central Cibao, the northeastern region and the lower Yuna account for 65% of cultivation surface. The Northwest holds second place and the South and East are in third place with only 8% of the cultivated area. In the regions of the country where it is planted, rice is cultivated by means of the irrigation system (approximately 98% of the area planted). In the South, rice is basically planted once a year due to the limited availability of water for irrigation, thus this crop is rotated with other products such as corn and some vegetables.
Close to 30,000 producers cultivate and harvest rice in the country, in a planted area of 182,370 hectares. About 45% of the producers are owners of small plots of land, of one to four hectares, under the Agrarian Reform. These are cultivated by means of Banco Agrícola subsidies. The remaining 55% are private sector producers. Rice production for 2002-2012 has fluctuated between 8.2 million quintals in 2004 and 10.8 million quintals in 2012, due to changes in the harvested area, which has ranged between 132,060 and 157, 215 hectares, as well as variations in the crop yield.