Rice: A Global Staple

The Story Behind

by José Alberto Martinez

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Rice, the seed of the Oryza sativa plant, is one of the most widely consumed staple foods in the world.

It's probably sitting in your cupboard right now, but do you know its story?

Though originally domesticated in Asia, this cereal grain has spread across the globe and become integral to the diets of many cultures. Rice is without a doubt the most popular food in the world, with over 3.5 billion people depending on it for over 20% of their calorie intake.

According to the FAO (the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), rice is produced in 113 countries and provides 27% of the food energy and 20% of the protein consumed in the world.

This global reach includes Latin America. Spanish and Portuguese colonists introduced rice into Latin America in the 15th century. Brazil is now one of the top 10 producers of this popular grain, while many other Latin American countries are major consumers.

In culinary use, rice is categorized by shape with "medium grain rice" being the most widely consumed in Latin America. Other types include short grain, long grain, and wild rice—each with its own unique characteristics.

It's easy to take such a common food for granted, but rice's prevalence is exactly what makes it so important.

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