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The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) declared the International Year of Rice 2004 during its 57th Session in December 2002. The dedication of an International Year to a single crop was unprecedented in UNGA's history. In declaring the Year, the General Assembly affirmed the need to focus world attention on the role that rice can play in providing food security and eradicating poverty.

Food security and poverty in rice are interlinked. Rice is the staple food for more than half of the world population, especially the poor in rural areas and urban centres in developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. About four-fifths of the world's rice is produced by small-scale farmers in developing countries. Almost a billion households in Asia, Africa and the Americas depend on rice systems for their main source of employment and livelihood. The growth rate of the world's rice production has slowed down during recent years and rice production has been less than rice consumption since 2000. The insufficiency has been addressed by tapping into the rice from buffer stock.

The population of the world is still growing steadily and the primary resources of rice production - land and water - are becoming scarce. The world's population was projected to increase to 8.27 billion in 2030 with an accompanying rice demand of 771 million tonnes. In order to meet rice demand in 2030, global rice production (569 million tonnes in 2002) must increase by about 202 million tonnes. This is an enormous challenge.

Sustainable increase in rice production will be essential for food security and poverty alleviation in the near future. "Sustainable rice-based production systems: Challenges and opportunities" was the main theme of the second day of the International Rice Conference, organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 12-13 February 2004, Rome, Italy to celebrate the International Year of Rice 2004. The theme of the first day of the Conference was "Rice in global markets". The International Rice Conference was attended by over 500 senior officers from member countries of the International Rice Commission, including ministers and deputy ministers, as well as heads and lead scientists from inter-national centres of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research and major agricultural universities around the globe.

The IRC Newsletter Vol. 53 contains mainly the keynotes and papers presented during the second day of the International Rice Conference, which were presented by prominent scientists and authorities in rice research and development in order to share the current knowledge, thought and visions for sustainable rice production systems. The IRC Newsletter Vol. 53 aims to achieve the common objective of the implementation of the International Year of Rice:

The International Year of Rice promotes improved production and access to this vital food crop, which feeds more than half of the world population while providing income for millions of rice producers, processors and traders. The development of sustainable rice-based systems will reduce hunger and poverty and contribute to environmental conservation and a better life for present and future generations for whom Rice is Life.

Nguu Van Nguyen
Executive Secretary, International Rice Commission

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