You Should Know: Local Rice is Healthier Than Imported Rice

IMAGE PhilRice

In 2019, the Philippines produced about 18.8 million metric tons of palay or unhusked rice. This is close to the average amount the country produces, according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. 

That may seem like a huge number, but we should also note that the country became the world’s biggest rice importer last year, purchasing a record 2.9 million tons of the grain.

With rice being a staple diet of the typical Filipino, it’s essential that we should know about the rice that we are eating—where it comes from and what, exactly, is in it.

Photo by PhilRice.


According to the Philippine Rice research Institute or PhilRice, when it comes to rice, local varieties—or so-called“Bigas ng Pinas”—are generally healthier and contain lower levels of “heavy metal” residue compared to imported rice varieties. 

Traditional rice variants boast of antioxidant, anti-diabetic, anti-hyperlipidemic and anti-cancer properties, said Dr. Marissa V. Romero, Chief Science Research Specialist of PhilRice, during “Rice and Shine,” the digital launch of National Rice Awareness Month on Tuesday (November 11). These traditional rice variants include locally harvested varieties of brown rice, germinated brown rice, and unpolished pigmented (black or red) rice, all of which are recommended alternatives to white rice. 


In addition, locally grown modern rice varieties like NSIC Rc 222 (Tubigan 18), Rc 160 (Tubigan 14), and Rc 218SR (Mabango 3) are also healthy, as they have been found to have lower heavy metal and pesticide residue compared to imported rice variants, some of which exceed the maximum residue limit.

Photo by PhilRice.


According to PhilRice, heavy metal contamination in cereal crops such as rice are often caused by mining, fertilizers, pesticides, and sewage sludge. This can lead to serious health risks such as hypertension, skin disease, and neurological defects. Local rice diminishes these risks because of reduced levels of heavy metal residue due to improved crop management practices and minimal use of pesticides among Filipino farmers. 

In addition, the farmgate prices of palay are currently at a low P14 per kilo on average. This helps promote the consumption of local rice, and not just regulates supply and demand for the benefit of our farmers, but also improve individual nutrition and public health in the country.

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The numerous health benefits of consuming locally-harvested rice, as well as the benefits to Filipino farmers and the local economy, are at the center of the “Grow Local. Buy Local. Eat Local. #SupportourRiceFarmers.” campaign of this year’s National Rice Awareness Month.

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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