Made-in-S'pore rice now faces taste test
THERE is a new brand of rice on the shelves, and it is made in Singapore.
Called Temasek Rice, it is the first - and only - rice variety to be created here.
That is not the only thing special about it.
It is especially formulated to be a hardy breed that is able to withstand floods. For instance, it "hibernates" for up to two weeks when submerged in water.
Following eight years of research and field trials, Temasek Rice is now ready for the ultimate challenge - the taste test.
It was launched at the Meidi-Ya supermarket at Liang Court last month.
Its inventor, Yin Zhongchao, guarantees that his grains are of good quality, and also softer and as tasty - or even tastier, compared with other brown rice varieties.
The senior principal investigator at Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory said the new grain represents a piece of the puzzle in the global quest for long-term food security.
The rice is bred to withstand extreme dry and wet weather conditions for extended periods of time.
It is also fortified against fungal and bacteria attacks, and bred to produce a higher yield.
He hopes that Temasek Rice will yield benefits for both farmers and consumers in the long run.
"Farmers work very hard and their income is very low, so we want to create good rice that allows for stable production, and produces grains of good quality so that they can be sold for high prices," he said.
"As for the consumers, rice that can survive poor weather conditions would ultimately mean a more stable food supply."
Rice is the main staple food crop for more than half the world's population of 7.4 billion people.
But studies have predicted that increasing demand will require its production to grow by 30 per cent by 2025.
Dr Yin hopes Temasek Rice will serve as a reliable source.
It was created by cross-breeding a type of Jasmine rice grown in South-east Asia, with five other South-east Asian types, or what Dr Yin calls donors.
Tedious yet simple, the process uses the age-old method of cross-pollination, where pollen from the donors were transferred to the original fragrant rice plant.
Temasek Rice produces six tonnes of rice grains per hectare on average, nearly four times more than the original type.
Its rice stalks are also shorter, making them sturdier and less likely to topple from strong winds.
It can also survive being submerged in water for two weeks.
Dr Yin said he is looking to partner more rice firms to increase the production of Temasek Rice, which is being grown in Tasikmalaya, Indonesia, on a small scale.
If so, its sale will be expanded to other supermarkets here. Right now, it is sold only at Meidi-Ya.
Each 1kg packet sells for between $6.95 and $7.45, a tad higher than the usual brands.
Professor William Chen of Nanyang Technological University's School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering said Temasek Rice will help address the challenges of climate change, such as longer and more frequent droughts and floods in many food-growing countries.