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Rice is the staple food of more than half the world population. In Asia alone, more than 2 billion people obtain between 60 and 70 percent of their food energy from rice and its derived products. It is the most rapidly growing food source in Africa and is important for food security in an increasing number of low-income food-deficit countries. While rice has made a significant contribution to the improvement in world food security during the past three decades, this can no longer be guaranteed; more than half of the 800 million people presently suffering from undernourishment reside in areas that are highly dependent on rice production for food, income and employment. Rice production is presently facing serious constraints, including less land, less water and less labour. In order to overcome hunger, poverty and malnutrition while protecting the environment and fragile ecosystems, it is necessary to address the increasingly complex challenges confronting rice and, through collective action by all stakeholders, seize the opportunities for enhancing efficient and sustainable rice development.

Every 4 years FAO convenes a session of the International Rice Commission in order that its member countries may review and orient strategies for their national rice research and development programmes. The Nineteenth Session of the IRC took place in Cairo, Egypt from 7 to 9 September 1998. The Twentieth Session was held in Bangkok, Thailand from 23 to 26 July 2002 with the collaboration of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. It was attended by 100 participants, including scientists from international agricultural research centres, senior officers and researchers from national rice research and development programmes, and officers from various technical units of FAO and other international agencies. A number of papers which review the progress in genetic improvement for food security, integrated production management, recent scientific achievements, regional strategies and emerging issues relating to global sustainable rice-based production systems were presented and discussed during the Twentieth Session.

The Plant Production and Protection Division of FAO has compiled and collated the papers presented during the Twentieth Session. The Division is pleased to support the publication of these Proceedings in order to provide national rice development programmes in member countries of the Commission, as well as international institutions and individuals interested in improving sustainable rice production, with information for an adequate response to new challenges in rice production.

Mahmoud Solh
Chairperson of the Steering Committee of the International Rice Commission
Director, Plant Production and Protection Division
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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