© 2023 Dr Margaret Sheppard

Occupations Food Production Market Small Business Building Other Occupations

The Local Rice Mill

After rice is harvested and winnowed the husked rice is stored in large sacks. The rice needs to be de-husked before it is cooked. Formerly this was a household chore but now families take a sack of husked rice to a local local rice mill to be de-husked. These mills are typically small business enterprises in the paddy field areas of e.g. Hambantota District. The mill is often  located within the owner’s family compound.

Rice Mill owners may also be rice traders buying surplus crops direct from the paddy field farmers. They then re-sell this to e.g. shops in towns or direct to travellers on pilgrimages who visit or are passing through the area. Tank boats will stock up with sacks of milled rice when they leave on extended fishing trips. Local people  who do not own paddy fields can also buy from them direct.

The Rice Mill owners often also have their own paddy fields and will  purchase more from their profits as they are supplying a staple food that is an essential part of the Sri Lankan diet for which there is always a market.

There are several different types of rice. Different families grow and eat their preference. The common ones are the various  white rices (both long and short grained varieties), red rice and brown rice. These are milled separately. Here they are shown in different buckets.

Transporting a sack of husked rice from the paddy farmer’s home to the rice mill

At the rice mill it is first weighed

The husked rice is  poured into the top of the mill and the de-husked milled rice is caught in a bucket at the bottom.

All family members will operate a family run rice mill especially if the husband is also a trader and away buying rice from the paddy fields.

It can be dusty work whilst the rice is being de-husked so masks may be worn.

The mills work off diesel powered generators.

Often part of the payment to the mill owner is in rice.