Under the prevailing free trade policies, with increased purchase of rice in the open market at competitive prices, there has been a growing awareness and an increased demand for better market quality among consumers. Rice quality improvement will become even more important in the future with Sri Lanka, like most other countries, entering into international as well as regional trade agreements and thereby opening its market to the outside world. This would create a situation where the country will have to compete with other rice producing countries in the sale of locally produced rice. In this context, reducing production costs for sale of rice at a competitive prices and improvement of the rice quality to international standards assumes importance.

At present the price of locally produced rice is approximately 25% higher than imported rice. Also, a recent survey conducted by the IPHT on quality of locally produced rice available in the open market has revealed that the rice quality is below the requirements of international standards.

The low productivity of the existing rice mills has significantly contributed to high production costs. For instance, even though the achievable rice milling recovery is 69%, in most rice mills the rice outturn is around 62 to 65%. The main factors contributing to reduction in rice quality are presence of high amounts of broken grains, paddy seeds, type admixture, impurities, damaged and discoloured grains and non-uniformity in bran removal.

Taking in to consideration the importance of increasing rice recovery levels and improving rice quality in local rice mills, the Institute Post Harvest Technology (IPHT) has embarked on a programme to improve the processing techniques of existing rice mills through following activities:

  1. Selection of 100 rice mills, covering the entire island, for improvement as 

           Anuradhapura              10
           Pollonnruwa                 20
           Hambantota                 20
           Ampare                        10
           Mahaweli System C     20
           Kurunegala                   10
           Minipe                         10

      The selection was based on identifying enthusiastic rice millers who have
       already initiated modernization of their rice mills to a certain extent.

  1. Identification of deficiencies of the techniques presently adopted in the process line of the mills and submission of reports for each rice mill recommending modifications that are required to improve rice quality and increase rice output.
  1. Conducting a series of training programmes for selected rice millers on improved rice processing techniques, machinery selection, proper maintenance of machinery, selection of raw materials, proper storage techniques, packaging and productivity improvement.
  1. Assisting the rice millers in the preparation of feasibility reports, whenever necessary, for them to obtain credit facilities from banks to improve their rice mills.
  1. Provision of process layout plans, machinery and building requirement for establishment/improvement of rice mills, to rice millers.

            f)    Liase with  Export Development Board and rice exporters to develop effective
                  marketing channels for export quality rice.

  1. Continuous monitoring the performance of rice mills modernized under this

                  project and providing advise for further improvement.

The modernization programme was initiated by the IPHT in January 2001 and, so far, 70 rice mills in the major production areas of Anuradhapura, Pollonnruwa, Hambantota, Ampara and Mahaweli System C have been selected for improvement.
The main shortcomings identified in the production process of the selected rice mills are: 

a) Defects in raw rice mills

  1. Lack of efficient paddy separator for separation of paddy grains from rice
  2. Absence of abrasive type polisher, for primary polishing 
  3. Lack of rice grader for separation of broken grains from rice
  4. Lack of sieve aspirator for removal of adhering bran from rice
  5. Lack of destoners for removal of stones from rice

b) Defects in parboiled rice mills

  1. Lack of efficient pre cleaner for cleaning of paddy
  2. Absence of abrasive type polisher, for primary polishing and water shining polisher for final polishing of rice
  3. Lack of destoners for removal of stones from rice
  4. Lack of rice grader for separation of broken grains from rice
  5. Absence of colour sorter for removal of black grains from rice
  6. Absence of dryers for drying of parboiled paddy

The requirements for modernization of a rice mill will vary, depending on the machinery/ equipment already available in the process line.

 Several constraints to modernizing the existing rice mills have been identified. With the current market demand for high quality rice, rice millers are enthusiastic in modernizing their processing plants. The main hindrance for such a modernization programme is lack of sufficient capital by the rice millers to acquire the necessary machinery and equipment for mill improvement. Hence, it is important that concessionary credit facilities are provided to them to upgrade their mills by including improved machinery and equipment. The loan requirements will vary from mill to mill, depending on the machinery and equipment already available in the process line. Hence, it is recommended that the millers obtain a report from the IPHT, identifying the requirement of components for mill modernization, before any loan is granted.

It is proposed that credit facilities for the intended modernisation of rice mills are considered under the Govijana Bank Credit Scheme, operated by the Agrarian Services Department of the Ministry of Agriculture under the following stipulations:

  1. The credit limit will be Rs. 500,000/- per mill at an annual interest rate of 12%. Credit will not be issued for construction of buildings and will be limited to machinery that will be recommended by the IPHT.
  1. Credit will be issued only as direct payment to suppliers of machinery.
  1. The maximum number of mills that could be catered to in the earmarked districts will be 50 at the initial stage.
  1. Each mill owner who needs credit under this scheme will have to enrol as a member of the Farmer Organisation in the locality where the mill is situated and application for credit will be through the Farmer Organisation/Agrarian Service Committee/Asst. Commissioner of Agrarian Development of the relevant district, with recommendations at each stage.
  1. Agreement for granting of credit will be drawn up in such a manner that the relevant Agrarian Service Committee will have the right to remove the machinery financed if the mill owner does not pay back the dues in full during the agreed period of repayment.

The Institute of Post Harvest Technology would undertake to monitor and ensure the proper utilization of loans obtained by rice millers for rice mill modernization.

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Modernization of rice processing centres to produce high quality rice