Rice or Flowers?

If anyone reading this has been to or lives in Bali, Indonesia you probably know that rice plays an extremely important role in the Balinese culture, but is growing rice  worth it economically?   Rice is not only used as food in Bali, it has many intriguing uses in the culture and is an iconic part of the landscape.  I recently learned, however, that growing rice may not be the best use of land and there are other crops that can have a better economic benefit.  How would these transitions affect the culture, and why does that matter?  Rice farming is a complex issue on this island.


Walking through the rice paddies…

Rice really did make me open my eyes to the world of farming  in Bali, because I see it every day and eat it nearly every day. I know it sounds strange but I have come to know rice really well.  Living in Bali for five years of my life I love to eat Breakfast: bubur or rice porridge, lunch: nasi goreng or  fried rice, dinner:  white rice with some kind of other curry or sauce.  Also, driving to school and basically anywhere else you frequently see rice paddies, because, that’s what the people do here: they grow rice.  Besides eating it, they use the rice for their offerings to the gods and other miscellaneous reasons like beauty treatments.  So, it is pretty clear that farmers should keep growing, right?

Rice farming may be making it hard for people, economically. One of the main problems is that one hundred meters squared of rice plants yields only two to three times per year, and only produces one large rice bag that you can sell for only 150,000 RP or around 11 US dollars. The reason it is sold cheaply is because the government regulates the cost so that everybody can get food.  Crops like flowers and other vegetables have a more constant and higher yield that bring in more income.  The farmers producing rice have families to provide for and  are not able to live comfortably off of this traditional crop.   Do you still think that farmers should be growing rice?

I am not convinced that rice farming should be stopped completely. Rice is embedded in the culture and if they stop growing it, I would be worried about the future generations losing their beautiful cultural heritage.  One thing I do know is that if they started growing flowers instead of rice the economy today would be much better here in Bali. Do you think that rice should be grown selectively and other crops like flowers should be the main focus of today’s farmers? Perhaps farmers should diversify and grow a variety of crops.

Of course eating bubur and nasi goreng are important. But I care about the current farmers’ economic situation. Leave me some comments so that I can get your opinion on the whole situation. 

4 thoughts on “Rice or Flowers?

    • Naomi Pockell says:

      What a complex issue! Rice is so important to the Balinese culture, and the climate and terrain supports its growth, so it seems natural that it should be grown. But the fact that it is subsidized or regulated by the government makes me think they should be doing more to make the price more in line with other crops. Are flowers prices also regulated?– if I remember correctly, there were flowers used in every ceremony-along with rice.


  1. Xiomara says:

    What an insightful question Xochi! I wonder if there could be a mixed use of the land so that rice was still affordable for all to eat and use in cultural riches but at the same time provide farmers with some extra income. Who buys the flowers? Are they exported?


  2. leah newman says:

    It is my understanding from the slow food movement that rice was not the only or primary starch grown in Indonesia prior to the government pushing the consumption. It would be wonderful if the growers would rediscover the other grains that fed their families.
    Your article is well written.


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