The Importance of Rice
The Importance of Rice
The domestication of rice ranks as one of the most significant developments in history. Today, with over 144 million rice farms worldwide, rice crops feed nearly half the world’s population. It is an incredibly diverse crop that can be grown in wet environments, such as those spread across Asia, and is cultivated on every continent except Antarctica. Rice has become one of the most essential foods grown across the globe because it is hearty, easy to prepare, and inexpensive to store.
Rice’s heartiness is its greatest strength. From a nutritional standpoint, rice packs a punch. Rice is naturally sodium, cholesterol, gluten, and GMO-free. One half-cup serving of rice contains only 100 calories and provides more than 15 essential vitamins and minerals such as folic acid, b-vitamins, potassium, fiber, iron, and zinc. In Latin America and the Caribbean, about 1.3 cups of rice are consumed every day. Rice serves as the second highest daily source of caloric intake by providing 11.5% of their daily caloric intake. In parts of Central and South America, rice is also a leading source of protein for the most impoverished communities, supplying more than beans, milk, or beef.
It is a low-cost ingredient and takes no unique skill to prepare. At minimum, you need a pot of water and maybe a little salt. As such, rice is an essential component in a diverse list of recipes from Thai to Chinese and from Turkish to Mexican. It has been the primary staple food in parts of western Africa for more than 50 years. In these countries, rice has replaced other staple foods because of its availability not only from local crops but also due to the low costs to import from Asia.
While rice production has increased, consumption has grown more rapidly, meaning imports from Asia are integral to the region. Rice is not only inexpensive to import, but also to store. It does not need expensive refrigeration. Once milled, it can be stored indefinitely in a cool dry place. This allows small families, huge agricultural corporations, and every level in between to participate in the rice industry. Because rice is inexpensive to store, easy to prepare, and hearty, it’s become one of the most essential foods grown on the globe. Rice is a staple food for a variety of cultures and an integral part of global nutrition.