The commodity rice is a main ingredient in the diet of billions of people. It is consumed as a main course in many cultures or serves as a side-dish. Rice is popular thanks to its complex carbohydrates and low fat levels, which makes it a healthy food type. Rice production is quite different from other grain types as it grows primarily in highly moisture and hot climate. It grows in low tide of water and the process of harvesting rice is very labor intensive which makes countries with low labor costs very suitable such as China, Indonesia and Vietnam.
The commodity rice has a rich history as a food source for humans dating back to 2500 B.C. Since that moment rice has fed more people than any other crop. Rice originated in China and from there spread across the entire globe. Trough trade and conquest the seeds where first taken to India and then to West-Asia and Greece. Afterwards the trade between Asia and Africa caused the rice to appear on the African continent as well. During the Slave trade to the Americas, African slaves are believed to have taken the rice with them, resulting in rice production in the Americas. The versatility of rice is a major contributor for the expansion of the crop across the world.
The production of the commodity rice
The production process of rice comprises of a number of steps. The first step is testing and preparing the soil for production. In many cases rice is grown in paddies, which are specialized fields of leveled ground and surrounded by dikes. Rice is produced either by hand or mechanized labor. Manual labor occurs mostly in Asian countries, while Western nations rely heavily on mechanized production methods.
There are two methods for planting rice seeds. The first and most common method is planting by hand. The rice seeds are planted in the nursery beds and after some 30 days they will be transplanted to the prepared paddies where they will continue to grow until they are ready for harvest.
Mechanized planting is usually done by a low flying airplane, which drops the seeds directly unto a floated field. Modern technology allows pilots to sow in straight lines and with a high accuracy.
After approximately 3 months the rice plants will be ready to be harvested. This is determined when the stems of the plant start to turn yellow and the tops begin to droop. During this stage the fields will be drained to enable actual harvesting. Similar to planting the crops, the harvest process can also be performed either by hand or machine.
Manual harvesting is common in Asia where laborers cut the stems with knifes and sickles. Afterwards the crop needs to be collected and hauled together for further processing. Although this method is far more labor intensive, it creates an advantage of rise plants which have fallen over and may be difficult to harvest using machinery.
Mechanized harvesting is a much faster method and requires far little effort in comparison to manual labor. Combine harvesters are large machines which are capable of harvesting large quantities of the commodity rice while simultaneously separating the grain from the stem.
The rice crops can only be harvested during a small window of time, which requires extensive planning and experience. First off all the moment to start harvesting is critical as the crop needs to have certain levels of humidity. Once this level is reached the fields need to be quickly drained and harvested before the natural elements have a too far reaching effect on the crop.