Yet all is not well in the world of rice. Growth in rice yields is slowing, and is already falling behind population growth. Most rice farmers are poor, but national policies often favour the consumer and export market.
The United Nations launched the International Year of Rice in 2004 to turn this situation around.
The year's theme -- "Rice is life" -- reflects the importance of rice as a primary food source, and is drawn from an understanding that rice-based systems are essential for food security, poverty alleviation and improved livelihoods.
Rice in numbers
- Rice is cultivated in 113 countries -- the staple food for over half the world's population.
- Rice provides 27 percent of dietary energy supply and 20 percent of dietary protein intake in the developing world.
- Rice cultivation is the principal activity and source of income for about 100 million households in Asia and Africa.
- Of the 840 million people suffering from chronic hunger, over 50 percent live in areas dependent on rice production for food, income and employment.
- About four-fifths of the world's rice is produced by small-scale farmers and is consumed locally.
As part of its International Year of Rice activities, FAO is hosting a two-day conference from 12 to 13 February at its Rome headquarters. The conference will work to mobilize the international community to confront the most pressing issues facing the global rice sector, from local farming practices to international trade. Participants include leading experts from around the world, who will present their perspectives on the latest trends and industry developments.
For more on the rice conference, the International Year of Rice and key issues facing the rice sector, consult the articles and fact sheets featured in the links on the right.
12 February 2004