Bangkok, Thailand, 10 May 2013 -- As a response to a request from the countries in Asia and the Pacific, and to meet the growing demands for rice, FAO set up an External Rice Advisory Group (ERAG) to help hammer out a rice strategy for Asia to bring first class rice specialists and partners to work together for the formulation of a regional rice strategy for Asia and the Pacific to define a medium-term strategic actions towards 2030 to attain sustainable development and production growth in the rice sector.
Today Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative opened the first-ever Consultation bringing together rice experts together from some eight international and regional institutions such as the International Rice Research Institute, the International Food Policy Research Institute, the International Water Management Institute and the Asian Development Bank, which are concerned with the development of rice and rice farming.
In his welcoming remarks, Konuma said, “Rice is not just a food in Asia, it is a means of livelihood and cultural heritage. For FAO’s member countries in Asia, having a rice strategy would help them formulate their own national rice strategies, policies and investment plans to address emerging challenges. It would help them to benefit from new opportunities, particularly in fields of science and technology.”
R.B. Singh, Team Leader of ERAG and former FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific said, “We need to develop a rice economy in the future without poverty.” He pointed out that today half of all Asian people are farming rice and added, “Reducing inequality in Asian rice farming will be the key to producing enough rice for future generations. It will take 66 million tonnes of additional rice for each additional billion people on the planet. So, rice farmers need to benefit financially from the rice they grow.”
The rice economies of Asia have seen major structural changes in recent years as yield growth has decelerated considerably since the late 1970s. Many of the reasons for this are well documented and are largely the result of falling investment in research that could lead to technological breakthroughs in rice seed. Dwindling investment in infrastructure like irrigation has meant that increased fertilizer use has only resulted marginal increases in rice productivity. Resource scarcity has added to the problem across much of Asia. Both water and land have become increasingly scarce, while rice farming itself is blamed for degrading natural resources. Policy makers are looking for sustainable ways to grow rice and that is what the FAO consultation on formulating a rice strategy for Asia is focusing on.
FAO works to tackle the root causes of hunger. Its mandate is to raise levels of nutrition, improve sustainable agricultural productivity, better the lives of rural populations, and contribute to the growth of the world economy.