Editors note: The following is a press release from the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture.
In the community of Moruga, Trinidad, some 40 farming families and members of the Moruga Hill Rice Multipurpose Cooperative Society (MHRMCSL) are carrying on generations of hill rice farming. This rice variety was brought from the United States to Trinidad in 1812 by the Merikins, formerly enslaved persons and ex-soldiers. For these re-settlers, hill rice became a basic source of food security.
Since COVID-19, food security has become a global priority. Ensuring adequate supplies of nutrient dense foods to maintain good health and enhance recovery continues to be a global concern, particularly for vulnerable food-import dependent countries.
Rice is among the most cultivated and most consumed foods in the world. According to The Rice Association (UK), there are more than 40,000 varieties of cultivated rice, most of which is grown and consumed in Asia – from Pakistan in the west to Japan in the east.
In the global context, rice production in Trinidad and Tobago is miniscule. However, for over 200 years, the hill rice grown by the MHRMCSL has been an important local source of food security, nutrition and sustainable livelihoods.
MHRMCSL President, Rachael-Ann Cooper-Lee, says the Cooperative is on a mission to expand production and distribution of their Red Gold brand, which will officially launch in Trinidad on 5 February.
From August 2020, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) in Trinidad and Tobago has been assisting the Cooperative to prepare for this milestone. Through a very small grant under the IICA Director General’s COVID-19 food security recovery fund—the Single Fund for Technical Cooperation—IICA facilitated the design of the Red Gold brand logo, package label, business cards and letterhead; met the cost of the brand’s Trademark from the Trinidad and Tobago Intellectual Property Office (IPO); and produced a video to promote the brand and the producers behind it.
IICA´s Trinidad and Tobago Representative, Diana Francis, believes that “recovering better must include practical support for local food production and distribution, especially for highly consumed foods that are locally grown and nutrient dense”.
Moruga Hill Rice is extremely rich in calcium which is essential to helping the body to effectively digest starchy and sugary foods. Cooper-Lee is calling on Trinidad and Tobago to patronize the Cooperative’s rice brand. Market success will mean continued decent employment and sustainable livelihoods for the Cooperative’s family farmers, enhanced local food supplies and improved nutritional security for the rural community and beyond.
According to Cyrilee Subratee, MHRMCSL Vice President and family farmer, “When you consume the Red Gold Moruga Hill Rice, you are doing yourself and your family a favour”.