Bajong Rice

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Bajong Rice

Padi bajong or beras bajong is a fragrant, colorful rice variety that originates from the traditional paddy fields of Lubok Nibong in the Betong Division of Sarawak, in northwestern Borneo. In Lubok Nibong, farmers mainly depend on rainwater for their cultivation, as infrastructure for irrigation is not available. Farmers generally do not apply chemical fertilizers to this variety, as beras bajong is a traditional tall variety that is inherently more efficient and has the ability to tap soil nutrients for growth. The rice plant is tall, measuring about 140-145 cm and has an erect plant type. It grows well in both upland and rain-fed conditions. The stems are strong and thick and do not bend or break easily.  

Farmers transplant the seedlings by hand and the crop matures 130 days after transplanting. The panicle is long, measuring between 32-34 cm. The grains of beras bajong has a colourful pericarp (outer seed coat) which leaves an intense purple color on the endosperm (starchy part) when milled. It is sold as semi-polished rice and it cooks to a soft and tender texture. Beras bajong is special because it possesses all the attributes of traditionally grown, naturally farmed rice with great color, aroma and texture.  

This variety is prized as a specialty rice, served at special occasions and festivals. Beras bajong has been awarded a Geographical Indication status for its distinctive qualities as a local rice variety. It is estimated that about 200 tons are grown annually, sold at community markets. Its price generally fluctuates with the seasons. Many growers also cultivate this rice mainly for personal use, but sell their surplus. Beras or padi bajong is grown by smallholder farmers, and the entire cultivation and harvesting processes are done manually. Many of these rice farmers are elderly, and if the younger generations are not interested continuing rice farming this variety may disappear.

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Indigenous community:Iban