Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Biological Sciences


The subsistence farmers and urban and rural poor are malnourished in terms of mineral nutrients and vitamins. Bangladesh has among the highest per capita rice consumption in the world at 420g/d. Although rice is an important dietary source for a range of macro- and micro- essential elements, and for a range of B-Vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9), it undersupplies the majority of these, while oversupplies carbohydrate. Also, there is a need to produce more rice as the population is growing while agronomic landmass is shrinking, and labour is moving from the countryside to the cities. The low nutritional value of rice and its oversupply of calories, along with concerns about enough being produced to feed the populace, is a classic example of the double burden of malnutrition. The carbohydrate oversupply is thought to be behind a rise in type-2 diabetes amongst the urban poor of Bangladesh. Calcium and vitamins B1, B3, B6 & B9, and dietary fibre all have a role in counteracting type-2 diabetes, so if these, and other nutrients present in rice, can be enhanced in they will be highly beneficial with respect to rice be a causative agent of diabetes, while also being generally beneficial in fighting malnutrition in general.

This application sets out the research needed to improve both the volume and the nutritional quality of rice produced in Bangladesh that reaches the consumer through altering post harvesting processing. Most rice is eaten parboiled in Bangladesh meaning that this centralized process can be optimised to enhance nutritional value of this comodity that has a wide reach to the populace, in general. Milling preference varies quite widely in Bangladesh, with the urban and rural landless poor eating mainly highly polished rice, and subsistence farmers wholegrain or highly polished.

Parboiling generally enhances both elemental and B-vitamins in rice, while polishing removes both organic and inorganic nutrients, along with dietary fibre. Our preliminary, conducted throughout Bangladesh) studies show that we can enhance calcium by 100% in milled rice by parboiling wholegrain, as opposed to rough rice, while removing 25% of the carcinogen inorganic arsenic (a wide-scale problem in rice, particularly in Bangladesh), and lowering of Bacillus cereus (a widespread cause of food poisoning from rice) infection of subsequently cooked rice. Thus, optimising parboiling is a way to enhance the nutritional status of rice, across minerals and vitamins. Also, subsistence farmers have a preference for wholegrain or lightly milled rice, and if milling degree can be lowered for market rice consumed by the rural and urban poor, testing at all stages consumer acceptance, this will have double benefit in fighting the double burden of nutrition that rice poses, enhancing the potential health benefits of rice (miner nutrients, B-vitamins, dietary fibre), while enhancing the yield of rice that actually reaches market through less wastage as bran. The grant's work plans will systematically set out the optimal post-harvest treatment of rice to address the double burden of nutrition.

Planned Impact

The studies objectives is to improve the lot of the subsistence farmers, and the landless and urban poor, of Bangladesh by improving the nutritional density of rice while at the same time improving the quantity of rice that reaches consumption from the same area of harvest.

Dissemination of the findings will be the key focus of the grant. Alos the application proposes to be highly interactive with the target consumer populations, as it is only with feedback that foods that people want to eat can change be delivered, & propagated. This will be conducted for all interventions, engaging with farmers, mill owners, urban & rural rice consumers. Facilitating these communication activities will be the BAU's Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE). DAE works with villagers to develop farmer/community acceptance & uptake of new ideas, including producing pamphlets in Bangla. DAE works with villagers to develop farmer/community acceptance & uptake of new ideas, including producing pamphlets in Bangla.

Clearly documented procedures will be outlined for each scenario, accounting for the consequences that will result if each stage is altered. Ultimately, the whole field to domestic consumption process has to be viewed holistically, to assure that the best nutritional outcomes are achieved across the target nutritional compounds. Work will be conducted in rural settings, where rice was grown. The acceptability of the produced rice also needs to be tested on the urban poor.

Subsistence farmers and local village rice processing plants will be involved with the project, with mills effectively providing demonstration sites, leading to ground up dissemination. National level Bangladesh dissemination will occur through meetings to discuss the grants outputs with government officials and NGOs involved with rice production and nutritional health of the populace. Wider dissemination will be arranged through media (television, radio newspapers, blogs etc.). Through these approaches we would aim for the widest possible impact to deliver better livelihoods to subsistence farmers and the urban and rural poor.

The project will train both Bangladesh and UK based scientists in complementary skills, including analytical chemistry, molecular biology, food science and agricultural economics. This will lead to capacity building in both countries involved, training scientists to improve the lot of the poor.


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