Rice is the most important food crop of the Asia-Pacific Region, demand of which is growing faster than the population. Over 90 percent of the worlds rice is produced and consumed in this Region. Moreover, this Region, where more than 56 percent of the worlds population live, adds 51 million more rice consumers annually. As a result, the thin line of rice self-sufficiency experienced by many countries is disappearing fast, and more countries are importing rice. How the current annual production of 538 million tonnes of rice can be increased to over 700 million tonnes by the year 2025, using less land, labour, water and pesticides is a serious question.
Superior conventionally bred varieties, super rice (New Plant Type), hybrid rice, super hybrid rice and biotechnologically engineered rice, all point to increased yield potentials. Exploited appropriately, these can increase the biological potential to stabilize yield. However, the countries of the region are at various levels of development, especially with respect to transfer and use of technology and policy support, and no single formula can be applied across the board. However, the yield ceiling must be raised and stabilized, the declining yield trends reversed, and the yield gap narrowed, while still remaining sustainable and environmentally friendly. Problems in bridging the yield gap under the limitations of social, biological, cultural, environmental and abiotic constraints need close scrutiny. But, on a positive note, groups of farmers have been able to achieve yields close to the yield potential for their respective locations, reducing the existing yield gap. A clear understanding of factors contributing to this phenomenon could lead to the recovery of a significant part of the current yield potential and provide another avenue to increase production and farm incomes.
Against the above backdrop, FAO organized a Regional Expert Consultation on Bridging the Rice Yield Gap in the Asia and Pacific Region, at the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand, from 5 to 7 October 1999. Experts from concerned countries participated in the workshop. They were able to identify critical issues needing attention. The report of the Consultation was published as FAO/RAP Publication No. 1999/41, in December 1999, highlighting the major recommendations. This publication collates further useful information in the form of Proceedings.
Appreciation is expressed to the participants for their presentation of papers and contribution to the discussions. In particular, sincere thanks must be accorded to Messrs. M.K. Papademetriou, F.J. Dent and E.M. Herath, for compiling and editing this valuable document. Also, the unfailing support of Mrs. Valai Visuthi, who provided assistance in formatting the manuscript, is greatly appreciated.
and FAO Regional Representative
for Asia and the Pacific