Producing high quality pasta from locally parboiled and lower-grade milled rice in Africa

Place: benin, Africa
Food consumption patterns: diet, environment, society, economy and health Food consumption patterns: diet, environment, society, economy and health
Total Budget: € 200.000,00 | Period: From July 2012 To


Taking advantage of improved knowledge of the determinants of quality in rice and rice products, Western-world technology has been modified to obtain rice-based "new" products from African-grown parboiled and lower-grade milled rice by using sustainable processes.


Africa Rice Center - Benin

Lead applicant

The Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) is a research organization committed to improving livelihoods in Africa through science and effective partnerships. It is an intergovernmental association of African member countries, and today membership comprises 25 countries, covering West, Central, East and North Africa. AfricaRice is a member of the CGIAR Consortium. Its mission addresses poverty alleviation and food security, through activities aimed at increasing the productivity and profitability of the rice sector while ensuring the sustainability of the farming environment. Research and development activities are conducted in collaboration with various stakeholders - from National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS), to academic and advanced research institutions, farmers’ organizations, non-governmental organizations, and donors - for the benefit of African farmers, mostly small-scale producers, as well as the millions of African families for whom rice means food.

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research - Ghana - Ghana

Initiative partner

The CSIR-FRI is mandated to conduct applied research into problems of: • Food Processing, Preservation and Utilization • Storage, Marketing and Distribution • Food Safety & Quality Assurance • National Food and Nutrition Security • Micro, small, medium & large-scale industrial food processing • Supporting the food and agricultural sectors of the national economy • Advise Government on national food Policy Its goals are: • To assist in poverty alleviation through creation of opportunities for generating and increasing incomes within the micro, small, medium and large-scale food industries. • To contribute to food security, foreign exchange earnings and the application of cost-effective food processing technologies that are environmentally friendly.

University of Milan, Department of Food, Environmental and Nutritional Sciences - Italy

Initiative partner

Scopo del DeFENS è promuovere la formazione e sviluppare la ricerca per garantire alimenti sicuri, innovativi, e di qualità, prodotti mediante tecnologie sostenibili lungo tutta la filiera. Dal campo alla tavola, ma anche oltre, DeFENS si pone l’obiettivo di preservare e migliorare ambienti, sistemi, prodotti, e di fornire un approccio olistico a queste problematiche con lo scopo ultimo di salvaguardare e migliorare la salute umana e la qualità della vita.

The ultimate goal of this Best Practice is to contribute to increased food security and sustainable livelihoods among rice processors and consumers in Africa. To achieve this goal, this activity developed and evaluated nutritionally enhanced rice-based pasta acceptable to local consumers, by using locally parboiled and lower grade milled rice that would have otherwise been sold at discounted prices on local markets.

The "knowledge seed" here stems from a cross-fertilization between fundamental research (that assessed at the molecular level the determinants of the quality of a given rice variety) and appropriate modification of processes developed in the Western world to make them suitable for the African context.

The main innovation relates to:

1) flexibility of the process (in terms of adaptability to local resources);

2) sustainable water and energy demands;

3) availability of "new products" suitable for the changing lifestyle of the "new African".

Rice Pasta Rice-based pasta was produced from locally parboiled African rice, by conveniently adapting technologies developed in the Western world to make them suitable for the African context.

Rice is the main staple food in most of sub-Saharan Africa and it represents a major target for security issues on the continent. Rice grown on the continent presents a number of problems along the farm-to-fork chain. Some of these stem from properties peculiar to varieties that best fit local agronomic needs and relate to consumer preference issues (such as the high level of broken and / or defective grains). Others stem from difficulties in adapting to conventional Western-type processing procedures to locations were water and energy are often in short supply. There is also the issue of under-exploitation of African rice varieties that may be of nutritional interest outside the continent, and that of improving the nutritional properties of rice-based products through specific fortiification strategies. New products such as pasta made from local rice may also help in fulfilling the changing lifestyle of the so-called "new African".

African Rice Pasta Samples of poor quality rice-based pasta available on the African Market. These samples were considered as a starting point at the beginning of the project, and improvement of the product quality was immediately recognized as one of the main objectives of this project, as well as a factor for pasta acceptability.

The project is leading to:

i) Increased production and consumption of local rice and newly developed products with properties desired by the local people (demand-driven approaches for rice sector development).

ii) Increased trade in locally produced rice and newly developed rice-based products across the continent.

iii) Increased investment and enterpreneurship in the rice sector.

iv) Enhanced quality and competitiveness of locally produced rice; increased efficiency in water and energy resource use in the local rice parboling industry in Africa.

v) Increased utilization of indigenous and improved rice varieties with lower grain quality for new product development.

vi) Improved safety and user-friendly parboiling systems in use in local rice processing industries in Africa.

African Parboiling Unit Lower-grade milled African rice underwent parboiling by using local basic equipment before being transformed into pasta.
Extrusion of Rice Pasta Pellets were transferred into a lab-scale extruder (20 kg/h; MAC 30, Italpast, Parma, Italy), and extruded into a macaroni shape. Samples were then dried in an experimental drying cell.
Parboiled African Rice Lower grade milled African rice underwent parboiling process in Africa and was then used for pasta production.
Progel Pilot Plant Progel apparatus (Braibanti, Milano, Italy) consists of a mixing chamber where rice is loaded, and of a single screw that transfers rice to an extruder, where pellets are formed.
Rice Pellets Wet rice was subjected to a first extrusion (extrusion-cooking) in a Progel extruder and formed into pellets (small cylinders of 4-5 mm diameter) that could then be used for pasta making.
Wet Parboiled African Rice Parboiled rice of African origin was submerged in warm water and underwent a subsequent conditioning process at room temperature. This procedure provided the rice the right humidity required in the following production steps.

A - Rice related businesses (rice farmers and processors)

  i) quality and competitiveness of locally produced rice

  ii) utilization of indigenous and improved varieties

  iii) safety and user-friendliness of processes used in the local rice industry in Africa

  iv) the energy efficiency and user-friendliness of rice processing equipment.

B - Consumers:

  i) availability of a larger variety of nutritious rice-based foods

  ii) availability of new rice-based products

C - Society at large:

  i) improved environmental issues related to the disposal of residues from rice processing.

  ii) efficiency in the use of local water and energy resources.

The project - which is funded by the Global Rice Science Partnership - has been carried out by a multi-disciplinary team of research scientists, university professors, students and post-doctoral fellows working with a private sector enterpreneur in Ghana.

The initiative is led by Dr. John Manful from the Africa Rice Center, based in Benin, with active collaboration from Prof. Stefania Iametti (a protein expert) and Prof. M. Ambrogina Pagani (an expert in cereal technology), both from the University of Milan.

In Ghana, the team has Professor Paa-Nii Johnson as the head working with a private food processor, Elsa Foods. 2 Ghanaian female graduate students stayed for 3 months in Milan working on this project and a further 2 students are expected to go to Milan - supported by the project - in the near future. 

Discussing Results Young African researchers involved in the project present their results at a Project Meeting in Ghana.
The Project Team People involved in the project met up in Ghana for a follow-up on the results of the project.

Aside from the difficulties related to secure funding (through a very selective submission and evaluation procedure), the implementation also proved challenging. Indeed, scientists, students and researchers from differing social and cultural backgrounds had to be brought together to undertake the project activities in a properly concerted way. Also, getting the Ghanaian female students - who had never left their country before - to settle down quickly and work in Milan for 3 months was particularly challenging.

The headquarters of the Global Rice Sciene Partnership is in the Philippines and they are sometimes very bureaucratic. As a consequence, project partners had to often pre-finance project activities before being re-imbursed later.

The "New Products" project is focusing on limited use of non-local resources. Making use of local resources is also instrumental to maintain the biodiversity of specific African rice varieties which are in danger of extinction due to the predominance of Asian rice varieties in Africa.

It also focuses on the proper disposal and re-use of residues like rice husks and bran from the processing steps. These are being made into briquettes to be used as fuel in the local rice processing industry.

Concepts and approaches developed in the context of the "New products" project have resulted in proposing an expansion of this approach to other African countries - also outside the original geographical location where the initiative was carried out.

Further development of the concepts behind this particular project include contacts with additional governmental and research institutions in Africa and Europe as well as training of industry and research personnel.

The project has taken advantage of the position of AfricaRice as a leading organisation for the development of rice policy and research in Africa. AfricaRice has put in place two mechanisms through it disseminates innovative technologies. These are:

i) The Rice Sector Development Hubs (RSDHs) in 25 African countries

ii) The Africa-wide Task Forces covering various aspects of the rice value chain in Africa.

The Task forces enables close collaboration with the National Agricultural Research Systems, local universities, private sector operatives and AfricaRice itself. The task forces work in the RSDHs across the continent where rice research innovative initiatives are disseminated across the continent. Lessons from this project were disseminated through the Africa-wide Rice Processing and Value Addition task force in collaboration with the Rice Mechanisation Task force.