Indonesians eat more rice per person than almost anywhere else in the world. But rice prices are rising, while many wages are going down, leading to worries over food security.
Scientists at the Bogor Agricultural Institute have developed a rice substitute, made from local plants. In the city of Deepok the mayor has introduced a ‘One Day No Rice’ campaign to try and wean Indonesians off their favourite carbohydrate.
Diah Sadiah, a city official from Deepok told Euronews: “This rice tastes just like regular rice. I can enjoy it and even though we have the programme of One Day No Rice, I don’t feel I am missing anything when I’m eating this rice.”
The artificial rice is made from a blend of natural carbohydrates such as corn, cassava, yam and sago plants. The mixture is processed by a machine used for snacks and cereals. It pressurises the ingredients and cooks and shapes them into grains.
Much like instant noodles, the product is already half-cooked.
Slamet Budijanto, who leads the team of researchers, told Euronews: “We call the artificial rice customised rice because we can make this type of rice to meet specific needs. For example if we want to distribute rice to the poor who lack protein, iron and vitamin A, we can safely adjust the artificial rice to contain more of these nutrients.”
Nutritionist Wied Harry stresses the importance of a good product, plus clever marketing: “If the scientists can create a type of rice with texture, nutritional value and ease of cooking similar to regular rice, I think artificial rice could be well received.”
At the moment artificial rice is more expensive than normal rice. But Indonesian authorities can’t keep up with people’s insatiable appetite for regular rice and must look at alternatives to the traditional staple grain.