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Theme 4: Extracting More Value from Rice Harvests Through Improved Quality, Processing, Market Systems and New Products


Rationale and objective 

Theme 4 links strongly to Themes 1, 2, and 5 to develop ways to add economic, nutritional, and environmental value to the crop through (i) a reduction in postharvest losses; (ii) improved grain quality of new rice varieties, including access to and supply of quality and specialty products to current and emerging markets; (iii) improved value-chain linkages and efficiencies; and (iv) innovative uses of husks and straw to produce bioenergy, cut carbon emissions, and increase carbon sequestration.
Present processing practices in the developing world cause around 15–25% physical loss and, because of poor quality, financial loss at the market of 10–20%. Improvement to both loss and quality is hampered by the separation of the three segments of the sector—production, processing, and marketing. Farmers would benefit from better information flows and linkages with processors and retailers on general and emerging market trends and opportunities that could influence their choice of varieties, as well as a better understanding of the causes of and solutions to postharvest losses. 
Each year, hundreds of millions of tons of rice straw and husks are produced. These are commonly disposed of by burning, thus emitting greenhouse gases. Innovative uses, such as bioenergy and biochar, of husks and straw will provide local business opportunities and extra income sources for farmers, and simultaneously mitigate, instead of accelerate, climate change. Another mitigating option is improving the digestibility of the straw so that it can be used as more widely as livestock feed.  
Traditional varieties, grown for their quality, still occupy much of the world’s rice-growing land. They have not been replaced by higher-yielding versions because current grain quality evaluation tools do not discriminate sufficiently. Recent technological triumphs suggest that investment into developing accurate phenotyping and genotyping tools for quality is timely. Combining quality with high yield will increase food security and decrease the environmental footprint of rice by harvesting more grain from less land. Demand for specialty products is increasing globally. Capacity to measure quality will ensure that it is maintained in new products. Other opportunities to add value to broken rice are products such as high-value oil from bran, and high-energy biscuits for malnourished children. Supplying rice varieties for these high-value markets will increase economic benefits to farmers and nutritional benefits to consumers. 

Research approach

Postharvest technologies will be identified and verified with end-users, and the technologies adapted to suit varied local conditions. This has commenced in Benin, Cambodia, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Vietnam, and in GRiSP will be extended to other Asian, Latin American, and African countries. Research to upgrade the postharvest value chain includes tools and methodologies for analysis, improved market information systems, assessment of consumer needs, linkages, and other proposed interventions, such as the adoption of business models. Research on husks and straw will determine the variability in digestibility of the straw, and identify and address the main constraints to using straw as livestock feed. Concepts for decentralized bioenergy and uses of biochar in carbon sequestration will be developed using ‘’green chemistry’’ approaches. Ways to select for quality and specialty traits will be determined using newly developed techniques for identifying compounds that contribute to taste, flavor, and texture, and identifying the components of the grain that determine specialty, sensory, and cooking properties. A phenotyping platform for quality will be developed and used to develop low-cost, high-throughput tools, and in collaboration with themes 1 and 2, to associate with genetic maps of particular populations to identify genes, allelic variation, and molecular markers. 

R&D product lines and outputs

4.1. Technologies and business models to improve rice postharvest practices, processing, and marketing
4.2. Innovative uses of rice straw and rice husks
4.3. High-quality rice and innovative rice-based food products

A variety of new products and technologies that add economic, environmental, and nutritional value to rice harvests and by-products will be the main outputs in this theme. The other major outputs are mechanisms for integrating the different parts of the rice sector to improve information flows among them, thus improving the overall efficiency of the sector. Widespread adoption of the products of this theme can lead to more stable rice prices, increased income for farmers, and healthier consumers, which will increase labor productivity and decrease the cost to poor families and national health budgets. Better use of the large volume of by-products of rice cultivation can result in significant mitigation of climate change as well as increased income for farmers. 

Innovative contributions

  • Adaptations of improved postharvest technologies to highly variable or local conditions.
  • Entrepreneurial business models for sustainable adoption of postharvest technologies and management options. 
  • Innovative management of market information systems and linkages between cross-sector actors.
  • Establishment of multistakeholder platforms (e.g., learning alliances) for capturing new knowledge and disseminating new information on postharvest technologies and new phenotyping tools to evaluate the quality of breeding lines.
  • Options to reverse carbon emissions from burning of straw and hulls to sequestration and value-added uses.
  • Production and use of rice biofuels to generate electricity for small enterprises.
  • New varieties with improved straw digestibility for livestock feed.
  • Improved nutritional and health value of rice to help reduce disease and malnutrition.
  • New traits of quality and a new-generation phenotyping platform to break through the quality plateau and allow high quality to be combined with high yield and specialty traits without penalty.
  • Innovative ways to process broken grain to add value and generate employment opportunities, especially for women farmers and food processors in Africa.


Work under this theme will rely heavily on public-private partnerships and multistakeholder platforms appropriate to each product line to take advantage of new rice varieties and production technologies under GRiSP on the one hand and private-industry experience in postharvest, marketing, and distributing new rice varieties and other rice-based foods on the other. Links are strong with themes 1, 2, and 3, with theme 5 regarding information dissemination and knowledge of consumer preferences, and with theme 6 for widespread distribution and out-scaling of the products and technologies. Collaboration in PL 4.2 will be strong with ILRI (straw traits for livestock feeding, link with CRP 2).

Impact pathways

Products developed in this theme address the major opportunities to add value to the crop, improve food security by reducing postharvest losses, mitigate climate change by new, green options for husks and straw, and help meet nutritional and health needs of consumers through higher-quality varieties. Uptake of the technologies and products requires networks of multiple stakeholders to ensure that (i) appropriate end-users and consumers are aware of the products and their benefits, (ii) technologies are out-scaled and products distributed through appropriate business models, (iii) and improved flows of information and learning are developed among cross-sector actors. Key intermediaries and disseminators for generating awareness, communicating information, and providing support for the adoption of these products include in-country learning alliances, NARES networks, NGOs, farmer groups, processors, technology and service providers, retailers, health organizations, and climate change scientists and carbon traders.