By The Nation
Suitable for health-conscious consumers of any age, the brand boasts a pure breed of rare Sinlek rice which is 40 per cent richer in fibre, vitamin B1 and iron, is seven times more nutritious, and contains lower glucose levels than other types of rice.
Khao Samorkhon Organic Sinlek Brown Rice is a product proudly cultivated by four farming families who were significantly impacted by the severe 2011 floods.
With support from Banpu’s "Ban Khao Samorkhon Sustainable Development Project" and Ban Khao Samorkhon municipality, the families have since taken up organic rice farming and successfully began producing organic and nutritious yields three years ago.
Udomlux Olarn, head of corporate affairs at the stock exchange-listed energy company, said the greatest goal of the project, initiated in 2011, is to help develop flood-affected communities become self-supporting in the long run, having all community members involved in the process of analysing problems and tackling them by themselves.
"For the Oraganic Sinlek Rice Farming Programme, we are proud that the farmers have put their hearts into what they do and paid close attention to every detail of the process to achieve the best yields.
"And finally, in their third year of dedication, they have a delicious and highly nutritious Sinlek rice brand of their own," he said.
Ban Khao Samorkhon community is one of the best examples of the "Banpu spirit" of collaboration between Banpu people and experts in community development and organic farming who have worked closely with the community members, sharing knowledge and experience that has resulted in sustainable development, he added.
Developed by the Rice Gene Discovery Unit and the Rice Science Centre of Kasetsart University’s Kampangsaen campus, under the auspices of the Science and Technology Ministry and the National Research Council of Thailand, Sinlek rice is a cross-breed between Thai Hom Mali rice 105 and Hom Nil rice, resulting in whiter colour with a long and fragrant grain.
Compared to other types of rice, Sinlek is more difficult to grow and gives a lower yield, while also requiring extra care at every stage in order to prevent mutation.
Despite the challenges, Sinlek rice contains seven times more nutritional value than other varieties, and has greatly increased levels of vitamin B1, iron and fibre, that helps prevent indigestion, haemorrhoids and colorectal cancer.
It also has lower level of triglyceride, which decreases bad cholesterol and lowers a person’s glucose level, thus making it suitable for people with diabetes.
"Since the first year that Banpu and their experts came to support us with their knowledge in organic rice farming, my family and I decided to switch from conventional farming with chemical use to organic farming right away.
"We chose Sinlek rice because of its high quality, despite the special care requirements and lower crop yields, so that our family does not have to be exposed to chemicals.
"Also, the trend for brown rice is rising and our rice can be one of the preferred choices for healthy consumers," said Sanong Sa-ardiam, president of the Ban Khao Samorkhon Organic Sinlek Rice Farmer Group.
Under close supervision by experts, farmers pay close attention to even the smallest details in the farming process from selecting grains, preparing soils and organic fertilisers, to planting rice seedlings and growing them.
After harvesting, the rice goes through a special milling process for organic rice before being vacuum packed – all to ensure that the nutritious quality is still intact once delivered to consumers.
This delicate care is reflected in the brand logo, which depicts hands holding rice spikes.
Pride in the community effort
Paiboon Srisawat, village chief and representative of Moo 3, Khao Samorkhon, said the collaboration between each community member and their efforts, plus support from the private sector, had resulted in "our pride in establishing our own rice brand".
"Khao Samorkhon Organic Sinlek Brown Rice truly is the fruit of our labour, and our pride in offering a healthy choice to Thai people," he added.
This year, the community has set a sales target of 3,000 packages, which it hopes to achieve through a range of promotions, public relations and other events.
In the early stages, Banpu will provide marketing support in order to create brand and product awareness.
The project aims to establish an online shop in the next few years, while maintaining its key sales channels.