6th Grade - Social Studies

LESSON PROBLEM: Economics: How many different varieties of rice are there?


Normally when we talk of rice, we only talk of long and short grain rice, brown and white rice, or polished and unpolished rice. In reality, there is an amazing variety of rice on the market, and the price of different types varies as well. It is not at all uncommon to find a price difference of 100 percent or even more. If you visit any supermarket, or natural food store, or Asian grocery, you would be amazed at the different types of rice available. And, did you know that most of the rice we eat in America is grown right here in the United States?

Variety of Rice
Worldwide, there are 40,000 varieties of rice in existence. They range from basmati to lemont and to arborio, from koshihikari to jasmine. The natural bran colors of rice provide more choices that range from gold to black, as well as red and brown, with a variety of shades and hues. All rice is white when the bran is removed.

Export of Rice
You may not find many of the varieties in your local market because most of the rice grown in the world is used close to where it was grown. Of the 400 million metric tons of total rice produced in the world today, only a fraction, about five percent, enters into world trade. Approximately 22 million metric tons of rice is exported worldwide.

The United States is the third most important exporter of rice with shipments totalling about three million metric tons. Thailand is number one with five and a half million tons, followed by Vietnam with four million. Next is the U.S.A., followed by China with 2.6 million and then Pakistan with two million metric tons. The United States exports to more than 100 countries, including the European Union, Japan, Mexico and Canada.

Grain Size – the Basis of Rice Standardization
The rice trade distinguishes between short, medium, and long grain rice. Generally, this is determined by the ratio of the rice length to width. Short grain rice is almost round. Medium grain rice is two to three times longer than it is wide. And, long grain rice is a long, slender kernel that is four times longer than it is wide. Rice that is classified as "Indica" rice refers to long grain varieties and "Japonica" refers to medium and short grain varieties.

Another Basis of Rice Standardization

Cooking Characteristics as A Way To Categorize Rice
Rice is also categorized into its cooking characteristics. Most often, the shorter the grain, the more the rice grains will stick together when it is cooked. Long grain rice will cook into dry, fluffy, separate grains. Medium and short grain will be more moist and cling together. Another rice, called glutinous or "sticky" rice, when cooked are very sticky and almost loose their shape.

Usually the areas closest to the equator grow the Indica varieties of rice or the long grain rice. The areas farther away from the equator, and therefore cooler climates, grow the Japonica varieties of rice. That is why Southeast Asians and Southern Chinese peoples eat long grain rice. While the people in Japan, Korea and Italy grow and eat stickier varieties of rice. In the United States, long grain rice is grown mostly in the Southern States. Medium grain varieties are grown primarily in California.


Go to the market and collect different varieties of rice according to their grain length as well as the ratio of broken grain in them.


Study the growth pattern of different varieties of rice according to their geographical attributes.


Rice - Variety of Grains

Rice Types and Forms

Planet Rice

Rice Web

  • staple
  • subordinate
  • slender
  • glutinous
  • standardization
  • export

Click here to play Rice Rampage!
Baldo is actually a type of specialty rice grown right here in the U.S. Other types include basmati, jasmine and arborio.
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