Assam’s indigenous Boka Chaul (Oryza sativa) or soft-rice has got the GI (geographical indications) tag from the Union ministry of commerce.
Boka Chaul, a paddy variety from Assam, on which Ahom soldiers subsisted during the Mughal era, is mostly cultivated in Nalbari, Barpeta, Goalpara, Baksa, Kamrup, Dhubri, Kokrajhar and Darrang districts of lower Assam.
It is a winter rice or sali, which is sown from the third and fourth week of June.
This is the only product after Muga silk, Joha rice and Tezpur litchi to be registered as GI.
A GI is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities that are unique to that origin.
Two organisations – Lotus Progressive Centre (LPC), Nalbari, and Centre for Environment Education (CEE), Guwahati – had applied for the GI tag for Boka Chaul in 2016.
LPC, an NGO based in Nalbari district’s Morowa village, is working hard for the conservation of close to 20 native rice varieties through sustainable agricultural practices across 45 villages in Nalbari districts.
This native variety of rice is unique because it requires no fuel to cook and can be eaten by just soaking it in water at room temperature. It is known for its nutrition and is consumed during summer because of its cooling effect.
“It was only on Monday that we got to know. It is a work of four years that has led to this recognition,” Hemanta Baishya, farming expert and coordinator of LPC, told The Telegraph.
This variety of rice is mostly used as part of the traditional cuisine with curd, jaggery, milk, sugar or other items.
In September 2017, Boka Chaul entered the examination stage where the applicants were asked to furnish scientific details pertaining to the rice’s unique quality and the geo-climatic factors responsible for its characteris-tics, the newspaper reported.
Assam Science Technology and Environment Council (ASTEC) acted as a facilitator for the application of the GI tag.