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PART I - OPENING


Welcome address - P. Raksarat

Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Bangkok, Thailand

Mr Chairman, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to be present at the opening ceremony of the Twentieth Session of the International Rice Commission and share with you my thoughts on “Rice for Food Security”.

More than half the world’s population depends on rice for its major daily source of food energy and protein, and four-fifths of the world’s rice is produced and consumed by small-scale farmers in low-income developing countries. Two billion people in Asia alone derive 80 percent of their food energy intake from rice, and thus the importance of this crop in relation to food security and socio-economic stability is self-evident. In many countries rice accompanies every meal, and it is an integral part of religious ceremonies, festivals and holidays. In high-income countries in the Near East, Europe and North America, it is becoming increasingly popular because it is seen as a healthy and tasty food.

Overcoming hunger, poverty and malnutrition is a major challenge for many countries due to the problems of land scarcity and depleted water resources.

The intensification of rice production needs to be adjusted in order to preserve natural resources and the environment.

This Session is an important opportunity to promote national rice programmes through extensive interaction among breeders, seed producers, extension workers, senior rice scientists, policy-makers and senior government officials, at both national and regional level. New links, exchange of ideas, observations and discussions will be a source of inspiration to all those involved in our work, both present and future.

I trust that the next four days of the Session will prove fruitful and provide an excellent forum to discuss past, present and future aspects of our mutual interest in “Rice for Food Security”.

I now declare the meeting open and wish it every success.

Thank you.

FAO Statement - R.B. Singh

Assistant Director-General, FAO, and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand

Mr Chairman, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), I wish to welcome you to the Twentieth Session of the International Rice Commission.

First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Government of Thailand for hosting this Session.

The Fourth FAO Conference, held in 1948, approved the establishment of the International Rice Commission (IRC). The purpose of the Commission is to promote cooperative action by member countries in matters relating to the production, conservation, distribution and consumption of rice. Membership of the IRC is open to all member countries and associate members of FAO. At present, 61 nations are members of the IRC, representing all continents and including large and small rice-producing and rice-consuming countries.

The IRC reviews scientific, technical and economic matters relating to rice and promotes and coordinates rice research and development work. The Commission reports to member countries and to the Director-General of FAO with regard to appropriate action to be taken to further its objectives. Every 4 years, a session is organized by the IRC to provide its members with the opportunity to review the emerging issues and achievements relating to rice production, and to assess how national programmes can best respond to the arising challenges. The Nineteenth Session was held in Cairo, Egypt in 1998. It is most befitting that the Twentieth Session, the first of this millennium, is being held in Thailand, which continues to be the world’s leading rice exporter.

As you are aware, more than four-fifths of the world’s rice is produced and consumed by small-scale farmers in low-income and developing countries. They are located in Asia and the Pacific region of FAO, and every year produce about 90 percent of the world’s rice, representing the anchor of global food security. In 2000, more than half of the world’s population depended on rice for its major daily source of food energy and protein. The quantity of rice consumed by these people ranges from 100 to 240 kg per year.

The increase in world rice production during the green revolution resulted in more rice being available for consumption despite the continually growing population. During the past four decades, the unit cost of rice production decreased by 30 percent while the price of rice fell by over 40 percent, which made an important contribution to lessening hunger and poverty and enhancing and sustaining livelihoods. This led to a belief in the success of the 1960s Freedom-From-Hunger-Campaign. However, there are about 800 million people in the world today suffering from malnutrition. Hunger reduces people’s potential to work, hinders children’s learning capacity and leads to a vicious cycle of poverty. The theme of the Twentieth Session, therefore, is “Rice for Food Security”.

The security and sustainability of rice-based livelihoods is fundamental to the world’s food security. The World Food Summit (WFS), convened in November 1996 in Rome, called for coordinated global action to secure food security for the world’s population. The WFS Five Years Later, held from 10 to 13 June 2002 in Rome, renewed the global commitment made in the Rome Declaration of the first Summit to accelerate the implementation of the WFS Plan of Action. Increasing rice production and distribution would undoubtedly contribute to the successful implementation of the WFS Plan of Action.

However, there are increasing concerns about the ability of rice production to meet popular demand in the near future. The Expert Consultation on “Technological Evolution and Impact for Sustainable Rice Production in Asia and the Pacific”, held in Bangkok in 1996, reported the stagnation of rice yield in many Asian countries. Furthermore, the intensification of rice production, if not pursued scientifically and appropriately, has been responsible for considerable damage to the environment and natural resources, including the build-up of salinity and alkalinity, as well as for water pollution and health hazards resulting from the excessive use of agrochemicals. In the past, the contribution of lowland rice to greenhouse gas emissions has been unjustifiably overstated. On the other hand, concern about genetic erosion in rice production is increasing.

Fortunately, technological options for sustainable rice production are available. Further yield increases may be achieved with new generations of varieties, including hybrid rice, new super plant types and transgenic rice. Innovations in rice integrated crop management (RICM) could improve the efficiency of input utilization and reduce the risk of environmental pollution and production costs. Labour-productivity enhancement is expected to be achieved with new generations of agricultural machinery, whilst innovative harvest and post-harvest technologies can reduce postharvest losses. Increased accessibility to information concerning innovation and production factors through modern communication systems can expedite the adoption of new technologies. New successful experiences in bridging the rice yield gap - for example, the “Ricecheck” approach - if widely adopted, could significantly enhance rice productivity and production.

The prevailing decline in the world’s rice prices due to bumper crops during the last few years should not lead to mistaken complacency. On the one hand, the declining price of this vital commodity has greatly helped to alleviate poverty and hunger in many cities in the world, but on the other hand it has caused hardship to rice producers. In this context, as globalization progresses, the world community needs to provide safety nets for the world’s vulnerable rice smallholders.

Moreover, world rice production suffers from lack of investment in irrigation development and research work. The decline in the development of irrigation infrastructures has slowed down the adoption of high-yielding varieties and improved crop management techniques. Similarly, the substantial decrease in public investment in rice research is troublesome, since the difficulty of sustaining growth in rice productivity has increased as yield has advanced. Water will be the scarcest resource in the years ahead, and the water-rice relationship will occupy centre stage in enhancing and sustaining the rice-based system.

In view of the above, the challenges faced by today’s national and international rice research and development programmes are twofold:

Experience gained through FAO’s Special Programme for Food Security has clearly shown that these aims are achievable as long as there is the active and full participation of all stakeholders involved in rice research and development. I have no doubt that this Commission will deliberate on such new issues and opportunities over the next few days.

The hungry child cannot wait. His bones and sinews are being formed today. We cannot tell him tomorrow. His name is Today.

Maintaining the productivity of rice production systems is too great a task for any single country, institution or organization. The global community, especially its policy-makers, needs to focus attention on the potential role of rice in providing food security and poverty alleviation. In this regard, I am pleased to be able to inform you that in November 2001 the FAO Conference adopted the Resolution 2/2001 - International Year of Rice, proposed by the Delegation of the Philippines. The Resolution requested that the Director-General of FAO transmit this Resolution to the Secretary-General of the United Nations with a view to having the UN declare 2004 the “International Year of Rice”. I am sure you will share our hope that this campaign will lead to the declaration of 2004 as the International Year of Rice.

I wish you a successful Session and thank you for your kind attention.

Keynote address: Issues and challenges in rice technological development for sustainable food security - M. Solh

Director, Plant Production and Protection Division, FAO, Rome, Italy Chairperson, Steering Committee of the International Rice Commission

INTRODUCTION

Rice is the most important food crop with more than 90 percent of global production occurring in tropical and semi-tropical Asia. In several Asian countries, rice provides between 50 and 70 percent of the energy and protein dietary requirements. Rice is also a staple food in many Latin American and Caribbean countries, with consumption levels among the low-income strata approaching the levels witnessed in Asia. Rice is the most rapidly growing food source in several African countries and Nigeria has emerged as a major importer of rice. The rapid acceleration of rice production over the last three decades has been a primary contributor to improvements in world food security. However, there are still 800 million people suffering from food deficits, most of them residing in areas that are dependent upon rice production for food, income and employment.

Since the Nineteenth Session of the International Rice Commission (IRC), held in Cairo, Egypt in 1998, there have been numerous developments having a profound impact on the global rice industry. Rice production has continued to expand and exceed consumption, while several countries have begun dispersing the huge rice stocks accumulated by bringing down rice prices in international markets. In several countries, increased incomes have led to a downward trend in per caput rice consumption. Low rice prices are a concern for rice-exporting and rice-importing countries which also have domestic production, as the latter could be threatened by less expensive imported rice. The depressed economic situation of rice and significant government support to maintain national production and rural incomes may have serious consequences for World Trade Organization members and their commitment under the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture.

With the widespread adoption of hybrid rice, China witnessed production increases, while there was a decrease in the area under rice during the early 1990s. Biotechnological tools for manipulating rice genetics are still in an early development stage but hold promise for addressing several constraints in plant breeding; indeed, improved techniques and the increase in genomic information have resulted in great advances in rice biotechnology. There have been positive developments, but polarization between the opponents and supporters of transgenic food crops has intensified, representing a serious issue for future access to and adoption of genetically transformed rice varieties.

This paper examines the current situation of rice production with the objective of highlighting issues and concerns related to economically sustainable production. The current rice situation and long-term demands are far from separate issues, since remedies to the current crisis could have a major influence on meeting future needs.

TRENDS AND PROJECTIONS OF SUPPLYAND DEMAND

Figure 1 presents information on global rice production, consumption and ending stocks for the period from 1997 to 2001/02. These data illustrate the two distinct phases that have transpired over the last 5 years. From 1997 to 1999, production exceeded consumption; overproduction was mainly a result of a combination of favourable international prices in previous years, support prices and government support to export in several producing countries. Following these “surplus years”, global rice production has declined during the last 2 years; consumption has outpaced production. Global stocks have also decreased to compensate for the decline in production. However, global stocks in the last 2 years have remained high. The current production trend is expected to continue until rice stocks reach a more realistic level and demand and supply factors cause international rice prices to rise.

FIGURE 1
Recent worldwide trends in rice production, consumption and ending stocks

Source: USDA, Food Crop Database, 2002.

During the early 1990s, several scientists warned of a pending crisis (Agcaoili and Rosegrant, 1992). The rice production growth rate fell from over 2.5 percent during the 1980s to only 1.1 percent per annum during the early 1990s as a result of slow yield growth and limited expansion of the production area. Several reports stated that a 75 percent increase in production will be required by 2025 to meet the demand for approximately 850 million tonnes (Mt) of paddy (Pingali et al., 1997). However, a more recent analysis points to lower demand for rice in both the short term (2010) and the long term (2030). These projections are based upon recent consumption trends, taking into account decreasing per caput rice consumption due to urbanization and increased income. Between 2002 and 2010, rice consumption in China is projected to decrease at a rate of approximately 0.45 percent per year (Table 1), while in other Asian countries, consumption is forecast to remain stagnant. The same scenario is projected through to 2030 (Table 2). The forecast of economic growth of 4 to 5 percent per year is the driving force behind the anticipated reduction in rice consumption (Table 3).

In summary, rice demand in 2030 is projected to be approximately 533 Mt of milled rice. While significantly lower than earlier projections, a considerable quantity of rice will still be required to meet future needs. Moreover, although global rice projections do not anticipate deficits, they often mask regional or national requirements. Indonesia is expected to continue to experience rice deficits increasing from the current annual level of 3.6 Mt to over 4.4 Mt in 2010 (Table 1). At present, Nigeria has annual imports of about 1 Mt, projected to grow to 1.8 Mt in 2010. Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to import over 6 Mt per year by 2010, while Brazil, Cuba and Mexico are forecast to experience continuing rice deficits of approximately 1.5 Mt per year.

TABLE 1
Current and estimated rice production (milled) in 2010; current and 2010 estimates of per caput, annual growth rates of production and per caput consumption for 2000-2010; and projected trade trends of rice (milled)

Region/country

Production

Per caput consumption

Tradea

2000

2010

Annual growth

2000

2010

Annual growth

2000

2010

(Mt)

(%)

(kg/caput)

(%)

(Mt)

WORLD

393.6

439.5

0.9

59.9

59.1

-0.11

24.9

29.3

ASIA

350.6

389.5

0.9

92.0

89.2

-0.25

+5.1

+7.0

· China

136.3

138.6

0.1

93.9

88.9

-0.45

+2.8

+1.0

· India

85.6

97.3

1.1

80.7

81.5

0.09

+2.8

+1.2

· Indonesia

31.3

36.3

0

159.0

158.0

-0.05

-3.6

-4.4

· Bangladesh

20.2

26.2

2.2

144.8

146.5

0.09

-1.6

+0.2

AFRICA

10.9

14.0

2.2

18.0

18.8

0.33

-4.1

-5.4

· Egypt

3.6

4.2

1.3

38.4

40.3

0.40

+0.36

+0.5

· Nigeria

2.0

2.2

0.7

20.3

22.0

0.67

-0.78

-1.9

LATIN AMERICAN & CARIBBEAN

13.9

17.1

1.8

27.9

28.5

0.17

-1.4

-0.9

· Brazil

6.6

8.1

1.7

44.5

46.5

0.36

-1.0

-1.0

DEVELOPED COUNTRIES

17.4

17.5

0.1

15.9

15.9

0.01

+1.6

+0.8

OTHERSb

0.87

1.22

2.9

4.4

5.7

2.3

-0.97

+2.8

a - = import, + = export; trade data for the world is total exchange.
b Transitional Eastern Europe, CIS and Baltic countries.
Source: FAO, 2002.

TABLE 2
Projections of world rice demand for human food in 2015 and 2030 and growth rates in demand


Rice demand (milled)
(Mt)

Per caput growth in demand
(%/year)

1997/99

2015

2030

1999

2015

2030

WORLD

386

472

533

1.2

0.8

1.0

Rice as food (kg per caput)







· East Asia

106

100

96




· East Asia, excluding China

132

129

124




· South Asia

79

84

81




Note: Projections take into account current estimates of GDP growth, emerging consumption patterns, population trends and other variables, such as urbanization.

Source: FAO, forthcoming.

TABLE 3
Population and GDP projections for 2015 and 2030


Population
(millions)

Annual population growth rate (%)

Total GDP growth
(%/year)

Per caput GDP growth
(%/year)

1997/99

2015

2030

1997/99-
2015

2015-
2030

1997/99-
2015

2015-
2030

1997/99-
2015

2015-
2030

WORLD

5 900

7 207

8 270

1.2

0.9

3.5

3.8

2.9

2.6

DEVELOPING COUNTRIES:

4 572

5 827

6 869

1.4

1.1

5.1

5.5

4.4

4.0

· Sub-Saharan Africa

574

883

1 229

2.6

2.2

4.4

4.5

2.3

2.0

· Near East/North Africa

377

520

651

1.9

1.5

3.7

3.9

1.8

2.4

· Latin America

498

624

717

1.3

0.9

4.1

4.4

3.5

3.1

· South Asia

1 283

1 672

1 969

1.6

1.1

5.5

5.4

4.3

4.1

· East Asia

1 839

2 128

2 303

0.9

0.5

6.1

6.3

5.8

5.5

Source: FAO, forthcoming.

PERTINENT ISSUES

Several emerging issues may hinder the ability to meet future rice needs. Yield stagnation and limited land and water resources for expanding rice area are the most important constraints to sustainable rice production. Concerns for nutritional quality, genetic erosion and environmental degradation require more stringent choices in rice production, especially in relation to international commitments.

Yield stagnation and productivity decline

The growth in rice yield has decreased to slightly more than 1 percent per year, i.e. approximately equal to population growth (FAOSTAT, 2002). Yield stagnation appears to be a problem even with hybrid rice (Yuan, 1998). There is extensive evidence of declining yields and falling productivity in the 28 million ha (Mha) of irrigated rice under intensive cultivation in Asia. Reports from the early 1980s showed a yield decline in the intensively cultivated rice plots in research stations in the Philippines (Flinn and De Datta, 1984). Later studies in other countries also reported yield declines (Cassman et al., 1995, 1996). More recent analyses also support the earlier reports of declining yields in research trials; however, they are unable to ascertain the extent of the decline in other parts of Asia, due to year-to-year variation in yields (Dawe and Doberman, 2000). Other observations indicate that continuous cultivation of irrigated rice (where the soil is maintained in anaerobic conditions for prolonged periods) results in disorders that limit yield (Pulver and Nguyen, 1998). Paramount among the constraints is the production of toxins from the anaerobic decomposition of organic matter that may limit plant development and subsequently yield (Olk et al., 1996). Given the importance of the intensive production system, attention must be directed towards sustaining high yields and avoiding inducing yield-limiting factors.

Genetic uniformity and erosion

It has long been known that irrigated rice production is highly vulnerable to major biological attacks as a result of genetic uniformity. In the 1980s, IR 36 was grown on approximately 13 Mha in Asia. Currently, IR 64 occupies 10 Mha - about 15 percent of all irrigated riceland. A similar situation exists for hybrid rice. In 1998, it was reported that 95 percent of all hybrid rice production (nearly 17 Mha) originated from a single source of cytoplasmic male sterility, i.e. the wild abortive (WA) source (Brar et al., 1998). The genetic uniformity of modern rice varieties and hybrids results in the crop being highly vulnerable to outbreaks of numerous pests and diseases.

There is also concern that the spread of high-yielding varieties with limited genetic diversity erodes the diversity of rice. Few traditional varieties are cultivated at present and many may be lost as farmers adopt improved material. There is also evidence that outcrossing of improved varieties erodes genetic diversity (Ellstrand, 2001). The loss of genetic diversity is a consequence of advances in agriculture, but it can also be argued that the contribution to world food security made by high-yielding varieties far surpasses the potential value of relying on traditional germplasm.

It is surprising that a breeding programme operating out of the Philippines can identify genotypes superior to those found in many national programmes working within the local production ecology. One interpretation is that many national breeding programmes have not yet reached the stage where they can effectively utilize introduced breeding lines to cross into local material, but instead they are dependent on introduced material for new varieties. The end result of this deficiency is the widespread adoption of elite breeding material from a single source and subsequent genetic uniformity. The apparent weakness of the national breeding programme has serious implications for the promotion of advanced technologies, such as hybrid rice and transgenic material. The problem of genetic uniformity is not limited to developing countries. United States rice is notorious for its narrow genetic base, and nearly all production in Australia utilizes the same variety that is widely used in California. Rice production in Latin America is also built upon a narrow genetic base (Cuevas-Perez et al., 1992).

TABLE 4
Nutritional aspects of rice consumption in selected countries of the world


Consumption

Energy

Protein

Fat

Calcium

Iron

Thiamine

Riboflavin

Niacin

Zinc

(g/day)

(% of recommended daily intake)

Bangladesh

441

76

66

18

3

8

18

14

25

30

Brazil

108

14

10

0.8

<1

2

3

3

6

8

China

251

30

20

17

2

4

10

8

14

17

India

208

31

24

4

1

4

8

6

12

15

Indonesia

414

51

43

8

3

7

17

13

24

29

Myanmar

578

74

68

20

4

10

23

17

32

40

Philippines

267

41

30

5

2

5

10

8

14

17

Sri Lanka

255

38

37

3

2

5

10

8

14

17

Thailand

285

43

33

5

2

5

12

9

17

21

Viet Nam

465

67

58

14

3

8

19

14

27

34

Source: Kenny, 2001.

Nutritional quality

The relatively low nutritional quality of rice is a concern, especially in areas where rice consumption is very high. Rice is the main source of energy and is an important source of protein providing substantial amounts of the recommended nutrient intake of zinc and niacin (Table 4). However, rice is very low in calcium, iron, thiamine and riboflavin and nearly devoid of beta-carotene. There appears to be some genetic variation for iron and zinc content in rice, which may offer an opportunity for improving the nutritional value of rice as far as these minerals are concerned. “Golden Rice” (vitamin A-enriched rice) may contribute to alleviating vitamin A deficiency in the future.

Limited resources

There is limited potential for expanding the production area due to increasing competition for land and water from industrialization and urbanization. Irrigated rice is cultivated annually on approximately 75 Mha, i.e. about half of the total area planted to rice. However, due to its high rate of productivity, irrigated rice is responsible for approximately 75 percent of total rice production. The problem with irrigated rice is its abundant consumption of water, which surpasses the actual needs of the crop. In Asia, irrigated rice consumes 150 billion m3 of water, resulting in water-use efficiency of approximately 20 000 m3/ha. Assuming an average yield of 5 t/ha, the water productivity of irrigated rice is only 0.15 kg of milled rice per m3 of water. The current price of milled rice on the international market is approximately US$250 per tonne, which means water productivity of just US$0.038 per m3. The low productivity of irrigated rice makes the crop noncompetitive compared to other uses of water.

It has been estimated that a decrease of 10 percent in water use for irrigated rice would save approximately 150 000 million m3, which is the equivalent of approximately one-quarter of all the fresh water used worldwide for non-agricultural activities (Klemm, 1999). Numerous studies have shown that irrigated rice can be easily cultivated using between 8 000 and 10 000 m3/ha (i.e. approximately 50% of current use) without affecting yield. The major difficulty with conserving water is that the water is not priced properly. Where a charge is actually imposed, most irrigation schemes charge the user by area and not by volume of water consumed. Such a system provides no economic incentive to conserve water.

There are other proposals for reducing irrigated rice water consumption, including: limiting rice cultivation to the rainy season only; adoption of more water-efficient varieties (C4-type plants); promotion of upland rice; and use of biotechnology tools to induce drought tolerance in rice (Tuong and Bouman, 2002). However, all of these alternatives have a cost. Irrigated rice is most productive during the dry season, little genetic variation exists in rice in terms of water use (rice is a semi-aquatic plant) and upland rice provides low and unstable yields. The introduction of C4-type photosynthesis addresses only a small portion of the overall water use in irrigated rice production.

However, much can be done through simple conservation: maintaining supersaturated soil conditions only during cultivation of the crop; eliminating or severely reducing land preparation in water (puddling); and keeping water in the field by reducing discharges. In addition, more efficient delivery systems that reduce conveyance losses are required. Good weed management must be part of this strategy. Improved efficiencies in rice production are urgently required in order to compete with alternative uses of these resources.

Environmental concerns

Agricultural activity is the main user and abuser of natural resources and there is worldwide pressure for more benign agricultural activities. Future production will be subject to public scrutiny and under pressure to comply with numerous international agreements, in particular the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Agriculture and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Irrigated rice production is particularly vulnerable to emerging environmental regulations, due to the excessive use of irrigation water, indiscriminate use of pesticides and inefficient use of fertilizers. Rice is a prime suspect for the high level of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ammonia emissions. Carbon dioxide is emitted during the burning of crop residue - a standard practice in much of the world. Environmental regulations in California limit the burning of rice straw to no more than 25 percent of the cultivated area per year. Most countries, however, have not developed regulations regarding the burning of crop residue, although they may be compelled to do so by international trade agreements.

Debate in the international community has recently shifted the emphasis from carbon dioxide to more potent gases. Methane emission is peculiar to irrigated rice due to the long periods of flooding and the anaerobic decomposition of incorporated organic matter (Hou et al., 2000). It is estimated that irrigated rice accounts for 20 percent of the global emission of methane. Methane is approximately 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Approximately 90 percent of methane emissions are emitted via the plant and there are reports of genetic differences in rice in terms of methane emissions (Wang et al., 1997). Although there is little information from field studies concerning cultural practices and methane emissions from rice, one possibility is the reduction of methane by short dry fallow or by rotation with an upland crop to allow organic matter to decompose under aerobic conditions before subjecting the soil to anaerobic conditions for irrigated rice cultivation.

Nitrous oxide is derived mainly from mineral nitrogen fertilizer (Mosier et al., 1996). In irrigated rice, large quantities of nitrous oxide are emitted when soils are left to dry following application of urea and flooding. Continuous water maintenance after applications of urea fertilizer on dry soil can significantly reduce nitrous oxide emissions. Ammonia is also derived from mineral nitrogen fertilizer. Approximately one-sixth of global emissions of ammonia is attributed to fertilizer use in crop production (Bouwman et al., 1997). In irrigated rice, ammonia emission is mainly the result of inefficient use of urea. The principal problem is the application of urea in water or on mud, which results in approximately 70 percent of the urea volatilizing as ammonia. This rate can be reduced by at least 30 to 50 percent without affecting yield by adopting efficient but simple methods of N fertilizer management.

Rice policy and international obligations

Historically, most governments in the major rice-producing and rice-consuming countries developed policies to maintain paddy prices stable for consumers in urban centres and provide subsidies to rice farmers. Such policies led to a continuous expansion of rice production and held market prices within the purchasing power of low-income consumers. In major rice-exporting countries, policies favoured the export market, often at the expense of the producers. Current world prices are the lowest for several decades. Exports from Thailand, the world’s biggest exporter, reached record levels in 2001/02, despite the fact that premium quality white rices were being sold for only US$178/tonne. This is made possible by the strong government support in Thailand. Global depression in rice prices is also a concern in Latin America where several governments have instituted trade barriers to protect national production. In the United States and Western Europe, rice is one of the most highly subsidized crops with massive government expenditure to support rice growers. In addition to such government support being expensive, policies to support the rice sector are limited by commitments under the Uruguay Round on Agriculture and structural adjustment programmes. Consequently, sustainable rice production in the long term would require improvement in production efficiency.

Technology transfer

Finally, there are a plethora of institutional and policy factors requiring significant change if future requirements are to be fulfilled. There will be an increased need for technical assistance in order for farmers to adopt more efficient practices. Where public sector-supported technology transfer programmes and other support services suffer from institutional inertia and are inefficient and ineffective, new paradigms are required to provide and finance support services, assist in technology transfer and improve processing and marketing.

ADDRESSING FUTURE NEEDS

Scientific development and new issues in the rice industry sector, on the other hand, offer opportunities which, if properly harnessed, can lead to sustainable production. Urbanization offers new approaches to rice marketing, and with rising incomes there is an increased demand for quality rice, thus providing opportunities for market-driven rice-based production systems. Biotechnological tools and other advanced breeding methods could help to generate rice varieties with higher-yielding potential and which are more tolerant or resistant to biological and abiological stresses, as well as being more nutritive. Holistic and integrated crop management systems increase yield and reduce costs and environmental degradation by increasing the efficiency of rice-growing activities. Higher income from rice production may be achieved by reducing losses during harvest and post-harvest operations as well as via the diversification of the intensive rice-rice system.

Development of the new generation of rice varieties

Increasing the genetic yield potential of rice has been proposed by IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) as a means for stimulating yields with subsequent research into “New Plant Types” (NPT). This concept was first developed in the early 1990s based on crop modelling with the stated goal of identifying NPTs with a yield potential of between 12 and 15 t/ha by the year 2002 (Fisher, 1996; Peng et al., 1994). However, progress with NPTs has been slow.

Hybrid rice is the most significant technology to emerge since the identification of dwarf plant types. Hybrids have consistently shown a 15 to 20 percent increase in yield compared to conventionally bred varieties. Scientists in China initiated hybrid rice breeding efforts in the late 1960s and the first commercial hybrid was introduced in 1974. In 2000, it was estimated that hybrid rice was cultivated on approximately 16 Mha in China, 300 000 ha in Viet Nam, 150 000 ha in India and 30 000 ha in Bangladesh (IRRI, 2000). There are also minor plantings of hybrids in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar and the Philippines. A commercial company in the United States has also been active in hybrid research, with the objective of identifying hybrids suitable for production in the temperate regions of the Americas, i.e. the southern United States, southern Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. Currently, almost all production is based upon three-line hybrid varieties. China has recently been promoting two-line hybrids, and in 2001 these hybrids covered approximately 2 Mha (L.P. Yuan, personal communication, 2001).

Despite the progress made, several factors have tempered the widespread adoption of hybrids, and the major constraint is seed production. F1 seed production in China was reported to be only 0.41 t/ha in 1976, but technological advances increased seed yield to 2.5 t/ha in 1995 (Yuan and Fu, 1995). Chinese scientists reported higher F1 seed yields (2.5-3 t/ha) from the two-line system. However, outside China, F1 seed yields remain low. In both Viet Nam and India, F1 seed yields were reported to be as low as 1.3 to 1.7 t/ha (Quach, 1997; Ahmed, 1997), resulting in higher prices of hybrid seed and consequently high costs of commercial hybrid rice cultivation. Hybrid adoption is, therefore, still limited to areas where labour wages are low and transplanting is practised. The persistent low yield of hybrid seed production outside China - despite considerable investment and efforts by FAO, UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), IRRI, ADB (Asian Development Bank) and National Research Systems during the 1990s (Nguyen, 2000) - suggests that the wide adoption of hybrid rice outside China still needs the identification of, or the breeding for, CMS lines with a good ability to maintain pollen sterility and a high outcrossing rate.

TABLE 5
Estimates of the yield gap in irrigated rice in selected countries

Country

Improved yield
(t/ha)

Farmers’ yield
(t/ha)

Yield gap
(t/ha)

Yield gap
(%)

India

5.8

2.8

3.0

52

Philippines





· wet season

5.7

3.7

2.0

35

· dry season

7.8

3.9

3.9

50

Latin America

6.3

4.6

1.7

27

Mauritania

7.2

4.1

3.1

43

Senegal

6.8

5.1

1.7

25

Mali

8.2

6.1

3.1

26

Burkina Faso

7.0

4.6

2.4

34

IRRI (9 countries)

8.2

3.7

4.5

55

Mean

7.0

4.3

2.7

46

Source: FAO, 2001.

In summary, efforts to increase yield by raising the yield barrier with NPTs or hybrid rice are still hindered by inherent technological difficulties. Biotechnological tools and methodologies may provide a solution to these difficulties. The most important achievement in rice biotechnology is the sequencing and mapping of the rice genome, carried out by the International Rice Genome Sequencing Project (IRGSP) and other public and private institutions. Knowledge of the rice genome could have an important role in the breeding of new rice varieties, including the transfer of genes from other crops and organisms to rice.

At present, there is only one reported variety of rice in commercial production developed using transgenic procedures. However, there are several reports of material in the testing stage. Most involve herbicide resistance or use of the Bt gene; herbicide-resistant mutants will soon be released. The use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is still highly controversial; nevertheless, new traits of importance to both consumers and producers are likely to be available in the forthcoming decade. Rice-producing countries will have to decide on how and to what degree these innovations will be adopted. Biosafety analysis is important, but this is not only a GMO-related consideration.

Narrowing the yield gap

Most existing high-yielding varieties have a genetic yield potential of approximately 10 t/ha. Under excellent management in farmers’ fields, these varieties frequently produce 7 to 8 t/ha, but the average yield by producers is about half this amount. The last session of the IRC recommended that FAO undertake a careful analysis of this yield gap. In September 2000, FAO organized the Expert Consultation on Yield Gap and Productivity Decline in Rice Production (FAO, 2001). Numerous results from on-farm field studies showed that the yield gap in the developing world was approximately 46 percent - the equivalent of approximately 2.7 t/ha (Table 5). The yield gap is most apparent in irrigated ecologies for various reasons: the production environment is more suitable for high yields; most growers are already using improved genotypes; and there is a lot of technology available for irrigated rice production. An increase in production of approximately 130 Mt of milled rice could be achieved by bridging the yield gap in the irrigated rice areas of Asia (which cover 72 Mha). Narrowing the yield gap in irrigated rice, therefore, merits major attention.

The gap results from numerous deficiencies arising mainly from inadequate crop management practices. While improved crop management technologies are available, few have been introduced, tested and modified to suit local conditions. Deficiencies in crop management are often the result of inadequate technology transfer. Most technology transfer efforts are provided by public sector entities characterized by limited funding, inadequately trained staff and little incentive for improvement. Furthermore, many extension agencies suffer from institutional inertia. New approaches to technology transfer are essential.

There are examples of innovative means of providing services to growers without massive public sector support. Rice producer associations in Latin America have organized themselves into FLAR (Latin American Fund for Irrigated Rice) with established collaborative programmes that are international in scope and deal with common problems - thereby avoiding duplication of efforts and facilitating information exchange. In Australia, the “Ricecheck” technology transfer programme has been highly successful in increasing national yields by bridging the yield gap (Clampett et al., 2000).

There are important differences between “knowledge-based” and “seed-based” technologies. Improved features incorporated into the genes of an elite cultivar are relatively fixed and visually evident and farmers can easily distinguish between disease-resistant and susceptible varieties and other improved phenotypic traits. Additionally, once growers accept seed-based technologies, they can continue using them without further assistance or additional costs (unless they are based on hybrids). On the other hand, it is often difficult for growers to appreciate the benefits of improved water management, which significantly reduces water usage. Similarly, farmers rarely understand how important it is to maintain biological equilibrium in pest management. Farmers can observe the response to N fertilizer but not large losses that occur via volatilization due to inappropriate applications.

Rice Integrated Crop Management to narrow the yield gap

Limitations in crop management do not exist in isolation but are interlinked. For example, increased seedling vigour resulting from the use of high quality seeds will not affect yield if the crop is inadequately fertilized. Similarly, the crop cannot respond to improved fertility if weeds are permitted to compete. It is also very difficult to obtain high fertilizer efficiency without proper water management. These examples illustrate the importance of developing an integrated approach. However, many of these limitations are often addressed as single issues, resulting in programmes such as Integrated Nutrient Management, Integrated Pest Management and Integrated Water Management. When crop management constraints are integrated into a unified technology transfer programme rapid progress can be made. The integrated Ricecheck programme in Australia addresses ten key management factors in a holistic fashion. This integrated programme was instrumental in increasing the country’s average yield from 6.5 t/ha during the 1980s to 8.9 t/ha in the late 1990s. During this period the yield gap was reduced from 45 to 33 percent. This experience is an example of the benefits that can be derived from an integrated approach and an innovative extension service (Clampett, 2000).

The Ricecheck programme is a decision-making process in which a series of limitations to production have been identified and integrated into a production programme. For Australian conditions, critical management practices include crop establishment, planting times, N management, weed control and water management. Farmers are encouraged to follow best management practices based on “critical checks” known to have a major impact on yield. In addition to the development of the “critical checks” concept, the approach to technology transfer is unique and based upon establishing farmer groups that not only accelerate technology transfer but also serve as a feedback mechanism for researchers and extension workers.

Improved N management is another good example of the need for an integrated approach to crop management. In the transplanting system - such as that practised in most of Asia - N management is particularly difficult, because the land is prepared in water, the crop is seeded in mud and humid conditions prevail throughout crop development. The application of urea (the most common source of N fertilizer) in water or moist soil results in large losses, normally between 70 and 80 percent of the N applied. These losses produce low N efficiency (usually in the range of 5-15 kg of grain/kg of N - Table 6) and contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, such as nitrous oxide and ammonia. Recent studies by FLAR in Columbia demonstrate the merits of incorporating N into dry soil prior to planting: N losses were only 20 to 30 percent with efficiency levels of 25 to 30 kg of grain per kg of N (FLAR, 2001). These studies clearly illustrate that N efficiency can be increased threefold without additional costs, simply by timely applications under conditions that reduce losses (dry soil), followed by adequate water and weed management.

TABLE 6
Mean N fertilizer rate and N fertilizer efficiency in five Asian countries

Site/country

N fertilizer rate
(kg N/ha)

N fertilizer efficiency
(kg grain/kg of N)

Mekong Delta, Viet Nam

46

8.6

Central Luzon, Philippines

136

12.5

Northwest Java, Indonesia

108

5.3

Central Flood Plains, Thailand

114

11.4

Tamil Nadu, India

115

15.3

Mean

112

10.6

Source: Olk et al., 1996.

TABLE 7
Estimates of losses in Southeast Asia during various stages from harvest to processing

Process

Range of losses (%)

Harvest

1 - 3

Handling in the field

2 - 7

Threshing

2 - 6

Drying

1 - 5

Storage

2 - 6

Transport

2 - 10

Total

10 - 37

Source: FAO, 2000.

Reducing post-harvest and processing losses

Higher yields will only lead to increased production if accompanied by improvements in post-harvest operations. Post-harvest handling of rice in much of Asia has not improved for decades. Hand-harvesting and threshing are common, rudimentary grain-drying prevails and rice is poorly stored. Results from surveys conducted by FAO show that losses from these operations amount to between 10 and 37 percent of the total harvest (Table 7). Technology is available for reducing these losses to more acceptable levels.

Losses from improper drying are high in much of Asia. Sun-drying is the most common method and it provides little control over the rate of drying. Much of the grain is either dried in the field in windrows or spread out on surfaces (roadsides) after threshing. Lack of control of moisture loss during drying results in fissured grain which breaks during milling. Additional losses in the milling process are caused by the inadequate technical performance of milling equipment. For example, the popular Engleberg-type single pass mill is notorious for breaking grain during milling, and milling yields are often only 50 percent, compared to the 70 percent milling yields achieved with modern milling equipment.

Normally, the price ratio of intact or three-quarter grain to broken grain is 3: 1. Consequently, high grain breakage means large financial losses. For decades, most Asian countries were concerned with rice self-sufficiency and limited attention was given to quality. However, in recent years consumer purchasing power has increased and quality rice is preferred. In addition, the export market demands high quality rice. Improving milling yields and reducing breakage are readily amendable factors, but major private sector investment is required.

Besides improving the drying process, there are also other technologies available for reducing milling losses. A new genetic trait labelled “tolerance to delayed harvest” permits grain to dry in the field to low levels (19%), thereby allowing flexibility in harvesting without inducing losses due to breakage during milling (Berrio et al., 2002). Tolerance to delayed harvesting has been found in two commercial varieties in the United States and several sources have been identified in tropical and temperate regions of Latin America. Tolerance to delayed harvesting is becoming a major breeding objective in Latin America. This genetic trait has not been used in Asian breeding programmes but it could be a valuable trait.

Improving the incomes and livelihood of rice farmers

The intensive cultivation of irrigated rice has been advocated as a means of increasing production per unit area to meet food security. Many countries promoted early varieties in the 1980s to facilitate three rice crops per year. However, rice is a labour-intensive crop in much of Asia. Labour requirements in five major rice-producing countries range from 243 person-days/ha in Bangladesh, to 195 in India, 156 in Indonesia and between 60 and 80 in the more mechanized production systems of the Philippines and Thailand (Pingali et al., 1997). Combining information on average yields in these areas with government support prices and labour requirements permits a gross estimate of the return-to-labour. The return-to-labour is estimated at: US$1.53/day in India, US$2.57/day in Bangladesh, US$6.06/day in Thailand, US$5.58/day in Indonesia and US$7.28/day in the Philippines (Table 8). Such low returns-to-labour are feasible only when no alternative employment is available.

Return-to-labour is directly related to yield. Improvements in yield combined with greater production efficiency increases the return-to-labour. One of the primary benefits of narrowing the yield gap would be a greater return-to-labour. Recently, because of sufficient national rice production and with restrictions imposed on irrigation water, several countries are currently discouraging intensive rice cultivation. Also, markets for more highly lucrative crops, such as vegetables, offer the opportunity for farmers to increase their incomes. Crop diversification within the irrigated rice system is often advocated as a means for stabilizing rice yields, reducing methane emissions and increasing farmers’ incomes. In many cases, diversification is hindered by the lack of suitable crops that can be grown on heavy, ill-drained ricelands, especially during the rainy season. While crop diversification requires more attention, efforts must focus on identifying alternative marketable crops suitable for heavy soils.

TABLE 8
Estimates of gross returns on labour in irrigated rice in selected Asian countries


Manual laboura
(person-days/ha)

Price of riceb
(US$/t)

Average irrigated yieldc
(t/ha)

Return on
labourd
(US$/day)

Bangladesh

243

162

4.6

2.57

India

195

116

3.6

1.53

Indonesia

156

187

5.3

5.58

Philippines

82

211

3.4

7.28

Thailand

64

127

4.0

6.06

Source: a Pingali et al., 1997. b FAO. 2001b. c IRRI, 1993. d
Pingali et al., 1997 (assuming material inputs [fertilizer, pesticides etc.] amount to US$120/ha, based upon studies in the Philippines).

Several practices exist for reducing intensive labour use in rice, such as direct seeding, which avoids the laborious task of transplanting. Direct seeding is the standard means for crop establishment in the Americas, and the technology (know-how) for direct seeding is, therefore, readily available. Other technologies for reducing laborious practices are also available, but they must be adjusted to local conditions. Farm labour is a major source of employment in several Asian and African countries; any attempt to reduce labour must, therefore, be in balance with social concerns, especially in relation to rural employment.

CONCLUSIONS

An overview of the current rice situation indicates that the scenario is much more positive than is frequently reported. The issue of major concern is the low rice prices in the international market which could have a depressing effect on production in Asia if the situation continues. However, several countries have taken advantage of the poor economic returns on rice cultivation and are adjusting production accordingly. China is both decreasing the area under cultivation and discouraging intensive cultivation. Viet Nam is also reducing support to rice production. Most countries are working within the framework of international trade agreements, while at the same time providing concrete support to rice prices because there is a strong link between rural poverty and rice production in many Asian countries. It is unclear how long many countries can continue to provide the required support, given the huge financial costs involved.

The hysteria arising from the “pending” rice crisis does not appear to be justified. Future rice demand may not be as high as reported, given the declining consumption in several Asian countries, especially China. Meeting future rice demand will nevertheless be a challenge. Yield stagnation in the more favoured irrigated production ecology is the principal limitation to increased production. There are several possible mechanisms for addressing yield stagnation, including narrowing the yield gap of current varieties and identification of higher-yielding genetic material, i.e. hybrid rice, NPTs and perhaps New Rice for Africa (NERICA). Regardless of the approach chosen, improved crop management practices will be required in order that varieties or hybrids may express more of their yield potential. The most appropriate way to address rice needs in the immediate term (10 years) is to bridge the yield gap in irrigated rice. Production in the irrigated sector - which accounts for 75 percent of global production - can be increased by 45 percent simply by improving crop management. Much of the technology required for narrowing the yield gap is already available; weak technology transfer programmes are the limiting factor for reducing the yield gap.

Significant progress can also be made in increasing rice output by reducing post-harvest and milling losses. Milling losses are significant and milling operations must be upgraded. There is a growing demand for better quality rice, which should provide a stimulus for upgrading the milling infrastructure in several Asian countries.

REFERENCES

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Berrio, L.E., Jennings, P.R. & Torres, E.A. 2002. Breeding rice in Colombia for tolerance to delayed harvesting. In Proceedings of the Twenty-Ninth Session of the Rice Technical Working Group, Little Rock, Arkansas. (In press)

Bouwman, A., Lee, D., Asman, A., Dentener, F., van der Koek, K. & Olivier, J. 1997. Global high-resolution emission inventory for ammonia. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 11(4): 561-587.

Brar, D.S., Zhu, Y.G., Ahmed, M.I., Jachuk, P.J. & Virmani, S.S. 1998. Diversifying the CMS system to improve the sustainability of hybrid rice technology. In Virmani, S.S., Siddiq, E.A. & Muralidbaran, K. eds. Proceedings of the Third International Symposium on Hybrid Rice, Los Baños, Philippines, IRRI.

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Cassman, K.G., De Datta, S.K., Olk, D.C., Alcantara, J. & Dixon, M. 1995. Yield decline and the nitrogen economy of long-term experiments on continuous irrigated rice systems in the tropics. In Lal, R. & Steward, B.A. eds. Soil management: experimental basis for sustainability and environmental quality, p. 181-222. Baca Raton, Florida, CRC/Lewis Publishers.

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Report on the implementation of the Commission’s Nineteenth Session - D.V. Tran

Executive Secretary of the International Rice Commission[1]
Plant Production and Protection Division, FAO, Rome, Italy

INTRODUCTION

The Commission’s Rules of Procedure require FAO to convene a session every 4 years to provide IRC members with a forum to review: progress made in rice research and development; issues arising; and matters relating to the production, conservation, distribution and consumption of rice, in order that they may orient their respective national programmes. Between sessions, regional workshops and expert consultations are organized to address specific issues and problems.

The Nineteenth Session of the IRC was held in Cairo in 1998 and recommendations were made for both IRC members and all stakeholders concerned (including FAO), covering issues ranging from sustainable rice production to rice genetics and biotechnology, the development and use of hybrid rice, water-saving, farm mechanization, post-harvest technologies, rice-farming systems and rice trade.

Over the last 4 years, the Secretariat of the Commission has implemented numerous rice-related activities with its limited resources. In collaboration with FAO Regional Offices, centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and National Research Systems (NARS), the IRC Secretariat has: organized several meetings, workshops and expert consultations; provided technical support to regional and international cooperative networks on rice; and implemented activities in a variety of fields, including rice agronomy, seed and genetic resources, water and plant nutrition management, plant protection, post-harvest technologies, rice nutrition, rice-based farming systems, extension and rice trade.

In addition, the Secretariat has also provided technical backstopping for the implementation of field projects, formulated new rice projects in IRC member countries, produced a number of technical publications, and collected, analysed and disseminated information on rice and related matters. These activities have been carried out at two levels: the Commission and FAO technical units.

ACTIVITIES AT COMMISSION LEVEL

Membership

Membership of the Commission increased from 15 in 1949 to 61 in 2002. The newest Member, Rwanda, was approved by the Director-General of FAO in June 2002 (Figure 1).

FIGURE 1
Membership of the IRC, 1949-2002

International Year of Rice, 2004

The FAO Conference at its Thirty-first Session on 13 November 2001 adopted Resolution 2/2001: “International Year of Rice”, sponsored by the delegation of the Philippines (see Box 1). The Conference requested the Director-General to transmit this resolution to the Secretary-General of the United Nations with a view to having the United Nations declare 2004 as the International Year of Rice (see Box 2).

BOX 1

The Conference adopted the following Resolution (excerpted from FAO Report of the Thirty-first Session of the FAO Conference):

RESOLUTION 2/2001
International Year of Rice

THE CONFERENCE,

Notingthat rice continued to be the staple food of more than half of the world’s population,

Recallingthat more than four-fifths of the world’s rice was produced and consumed by small farmers in low-income and developing countries,

Desiringto focus world attention on the role that rice could play in providing food security and poverty alleviation of the population,

Believingthat concerted efforts should be aimed at addressing the issues and challenges dictated by problems of declining productivity, depletion of natural resources and environment, and losses of biodiversity in present rice production systems,

Recognizingthat there were important partnerships among research and development institutions on rice,

Recallingalso that during its present Thirty-first Session, it had approved the International Treaty on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture,

Affirmingthe need to heighten public awareness on the interrelationship between poverty, food security, malnutrition and rice,

Requeststhe Director-General to transmit this Resolution to the Secretary-General of the United Nations with a view to having the United Nations declare the Year 2004 as The International Year of Rice.

(Adopted on 13 November 2001)

BOX 2

United Nations General Assembly Fifty-seventh Session

AGENDAITEM 168
International Year of Rice, 2004

Sponsors:

Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cuba, Cyprus, Democratic Republic of Korea, Ecuador, Fiji, Gabon, Grenada, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Madagascar, Mali, Malaysia, the Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Myanmar, Nauru, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Viet Nam and Zambia.

International Year of Rice

THE GENERALASSEMBLY,

Recalling Resolution 2/2001 of the Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,

Noting that rice is the staple food of more than half of the world’s population,

Affirming the need to heighten awareness of the role of rice in alleviating poverty and malnutrition,

Reaffirming the need to focus world attention on the role that rice can play in providing food security and eradicating poverty in the attainment of the internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration,a

a Adopted on 16 December 2002.

1. Decidesto declare the year 2004 the International Year of Rice;

2. Invitesthe Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to facilitate the implementation of the International Year of Rice, in collaboration with Governments, the United Nations Development Programme, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research Centres and other relevant organizations of the United Nations system and nongovernmental organizations.

Activities carried out between the two IRC sessions

The IRC Secretariat organized six meetings of the IRC Steering Committee between 1999 and 2002. The purpose of the meetings was to provide guidance and coordination on rice-related matters to the IRC Secretariat’s members. Summary reports were produced and distributed to members and related technical units. These reports were also posted on the IRC Web sites and published in the IRC newsletters.

In collaboration with the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAP), the Commission organized the Expert Consultation on “Bridging the Rice Yield Gap in the Asia-Pacific Region” from 5 to 7 October 1999 in Bangkok. The factors causing yield gaps in the region were identified and a project profile for closing the yield gap in Asia was formulated. IRRI developed a concept note for submission to the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC). A report was produced and distributed.

The Expert Consultation on “Yield Gap and Productivity Decline in Rice Production” was organized in Rome from 5 to 7 September 2000. The main objective was to provide a forum for the exchange of information on findings and the development of guidelines for the classification and identification of the yield gap and productivity decline, and for providing recommendations for closing the gaps and reversing the decline. The proceedings were produced and distributed to the stakeholders.

The Workshop on “Policy Support for Rapid Adoption of Hybrid Rice on Large-scale Production in Asia” was held in Hanoi from 22 to 23 May 2001, within the framework of the International Task Force on Hybrid Rice (INTAFOHR). The objective of this meeting was to provide a forum for the senior policy-makers of member countries where experiences could be shared regarding the development and use of hybrid rice so as to ensure further and continuous commitment and support. Workshop participants came from Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Viet Nam, the Asia and Pacific Seed Association (APSA), FAO and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). The majority of participants were senior policy-makers and senior rice scientists. His Excellency the Minister of Agriculture of Bangladesh, His Excellency the Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Agricultural Commissioner of the Indian Government and the Assistant Secretary of the Philippine Department of Agriculture also attended the workshop.

Support to cooperative networks on rice

Participation in other meetings

The IRC Secretariat attended the first, second and third group meetings on “Interchange of Agricultural Technology Information between ASEAN Member Countries and Japan”, with emphasis on rice, held in Jakarta, Indonesia in 1998, 1999 and 2000. During these meetings, a regional project and several national projects were discussed and formulated.

The Secretariat also participated in the subregional Workshop on “Harmonization of Policies and Co-ordination of Programmes on Rice in the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) SubRegion”, held in Accra, Ghana from 25 to 28 February 2002. Participants comprised senior officers from: countries in the subregion (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo); other regional institutions, such as WARDA, UEMOA (Union éconimique et monitaire des pays de l’ouest africain) and ECOWAS; and technical groups at FAO-RAF. Several recommendations were made during the workshop for the harmonization of policies and coordination of programmes on rice in the countries of the subregion.

Development and dissemination of publications

The Commission published and distributed the following documents:

Collection, analysis and dissemination of rice information

The Secretariat of the Commission has developed a functional and attractive Web site that provides information to worldwide users. The Web pages outline the mission and focus of the Commission. The site contains 12 sections: Welcome, the Commission, Steering Committee, Sessions and Meetings, Network, Publications, RiceInfo, News/Events, Rice-Based Development Programme, Pictures, Staff and Links. RiceInfo and the Rice-Based Development Programme are major sites in themselves. The Web site has permitted more readers to know of the International Rice Commission and to share information on rice and factors related to rice production, consumption and conservation in their own countries and regions. This in turn greatly assists the Commission in collecting and collating information. The Web site is instrumental for the successful promotion of the partnership between the FAO International Rice Commission and other institutions.[2]

Partnerships with external organizations and institutions

TABLE 1
Field projects on hybrid rice formulated and/or implemented during the last 4 years

Country

Project

Time frame

Budget
(US$)

Myanmar

FAO/TCP/MYA/6612

Mar. 1997-
Mar. 1999

221 000

Bangladesh

FAO/TCP/BGD/6613

May 1997-
Apr. 1999

201 000

Philippines

FAO/TCP/PHI/8821 and then
TCP/PHI/9066

Jan. 1998-
Dec. 2000

275 000

Indonesia

FAO/TCP/INS/8921

Jan. 2000-
Dec. 2001

257 000

Egypt

FAO/TCP/EGY/8923
and then TCP/EGY/

Sept. 1999
(ongoing)

248 000

India

UNDP/IND/98/140

2000
(ongoing)

2 550 000

RICE ACTIVITIES AND ACHIEVEMENTS AT THE TECHNICAL UNITS LEVEL

The following technical units at FAO have been actively involved in rice and rice-related activities over the last 4 years.

Crop and Grassland Service (AGPC)

The service has served as the Executive Secretariat of the International Rice Commission and provides assistance to member countries in implementing the recommendations of the Commission, through its Rice-Based Development Programme (RDP) with the following thrusts:

The development and dissemination of hybrid rice technologies

This activity has been given high priority and implemented in collaboration with IRRI, the China National Hybrid Rice Research and Development Centre and NARS within the framework of INTAFOHR.

Hybrid rice technology has provided farmers with high yields, saved land for agricultural diversification and created rural employment opportunities. Although the technology is still new, many rice-producing countries have expressed interest in its application with the aim of improving food security.

Over the last 4 years, considerable progress has been made in both research and dissemination of hybrid rice technologies. Many hybrid rice combinations and cytoplasmic male sterile (CMS) lines have been released, despite some being unstable and seed sets not being high enough. In 2001/02, about 800 000 ha of hybrid rice were grown in various parts of Asia outside China: 480 000 ha in Viet Nam, 200 000 ha in India, 100 000 ha in the Philippines, 15 000 ha in Bangladesh and 1 000 ha in Indonesia. Average F1 seed yields varied from 1 000 to 2 000 kg/ha.

A number of field projects on hybrid rice have been formulated or implemented in IRC member countries (Table 1). The major objectives of these FAO-supported projects are:

FAO also provided technical assistance for the implementation of the Hybrid Rice Development and Use project in Asia, funded by the Asian Development Bank and implemented by IRRI and Asian NARS (Phase I: 1998-2001; Phase II: 2002-04).

The results of FAO’s activities indicated that the commitment and support of governments are fundamental in order to initiate hybrid rice programmes and promote rapid large-scale adoption. At the same time, the technology should be further improved to obtain higher heterotic advantage in the hybrid combination, better grain quality acceptable to markets and reduced costs of F1 seed production. The second generation of hybrid rice (“super” hybrid rice) developed by China, together with the two-line hybrid system, could give another thrust to farmers’ wide adoption of hybrid rice technology in the near future.

Rice Integrated Crop Management

Transfer of rice technologies in West Africa

Development and use of inland valley swamps for rice-based production systems

Since 2000, technical support has been provided to the project on Inland Valley Swamp development in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria, funded by CFC and executed by WARDA.

Provision of technical support to member countries

The RDP and the Secretariat of the IRC fielded several missions to provide technical support to national rice programmes, as requested by member countries, especially through the “Raising Productivity of Rice” component in the SPFS in these countries.

Seed and Plant Genetic Resources Service (AGPS)

Within the context of the Global Plan of Action (GPA) for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and in line with the World Food Summit Plan of Action, AGPS implemented activities aimed at enhancing the seed security of Member Nations for rice production. As a logical follow-up to seed policies and programmes in FAO member countries, the service has initiated a number of projects aimed at establishing sustainable rice seed production - under both high input and low input conditions.

As crop intensification is required in some member countries, particularly in Asia, AGPS has been involved in INTAFOHR activities aimed at the diffusion of hybrid rice production. Since seed availability constitutes a major bottleneck in hybrid rice technology transfer, AGPS carried out a survey of countries in Asia in order to define the precise technological requirements. This assessment (carried out within the framework of the IRRI/ADB project) aimed to find out the common characteristics of the hybrid rice seed industry in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Viet Nam. The results obtained showed that technology transfer in hybrid rice seed production technology can be improved in the countries surveyed through training and facilitative seed policies. Following these assessments, project activities were designed to solve some of these technological problems - through both the IRRI/ADB and FAO Technical Cooperation Projects. These projects covered the Philippines, Indonesia and Bangladesh in Asia, and Egypt in Africa.

In order to assist resource-poor farmers, particularly in Africa, AGPS participated in the development of the Memorandum of Understanding between WARDA and FAO. The collaboration aimed to facilitate the diffusion of NERICA rice (developed through interspecific breeding: a cross between O. glaberrima and O. sativa). A major potential constraint to the diffusion process is the availability of seed at an affordable price, at the right time, in the right place. AGPS is in the process of developing models for community-based seed production and enterprise - both within the framework of the various Special Projects for Food Security and as part of other regional and subregional activities. As a contribution to the body of knowledge on seed production systems, AGPS produced a paper - to be published in the next edition of International Rice News - on the high technology seed rice production system of the North and South Americas as represented by the United States of America and Brazil.

Within the context of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA), the Service is in the process of updating its seed database in order to facilitate the exchange of information on rice germplasm and seed availability, both as a tool for assisting farmers in disaster situations to restore their agricultural system and in order to strengthen national capacity. Therefore, within the framework of the field programme activities, AGPS provides technical assistance for seed production and distribution in developing countries. Such assistance has been provided to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Indonesia, Viet Nam and Cambodia.

In keeping with international developments, AGPS is currently reviewing existing seed legislation, regulations, plant variety properties, intellectual property rights and certification systems in an attempt to provide an array of options to countries within the context of international conventions. In this regard, the Quality Declared Seed Certification Scheme is undergoing review in line with modern technologies.

Plant Protection Service (AGPP) and the global IPM facility

In the field of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) of rice there have been three major innovations associated with FAO’s work during the reporting period:

The largest Integrated Pest Management rice programme in West Africa is centred in the Office du Niger in Mali, where several hundred farmer field schools have been completed since 1999. This programme, initiated with the support of trust funds in the Netherlands, is one of the core activities of the Office. It also formed the basis for expansion of the SPFS in other locations in Mali as of 2000. An intensive socio-economic study was conducted to explore and analyse the institutional dimensions of rice IPM in local farmer communities. Additional rice IPM work also began in seven locations in Burkina Faso and the baseline survey for rice IPM in Senegal along the Senegal River was completed. The survey revealed that pesticide use in rice has increased five- to tenfold over the past 15 years, with no corresponding increase in rice production. In fact, the two pesticides showing the great increases in the same sample areas were carbofuran insecticide and propanil herbicide. There is a general consensus worldwide that these two compounds are not compatible in the field. Carbamate insecticides, such as carbofuran, inhibit detoxification mechanisms, with the result that propanil use is selective in rice. When a carbamate insecticide and propanil are used within 3 weeks of each other, rice becomes damaged and shows phytotoxicity. There are reports almost every year of farmers complaining about damage to rice crops, and the sometimes inappropriate response has been to increase pesticide applications.

In Asia, the fourth and final phase (“Community IPM Intercountry Programme”) of the FAO regional IPM rice programme completed most of its work. Over 2 million farmers in about 100 000 villages across 12 countries in Asia participated in the programme. It was instrumental in creating a team of Asian trainers among the very best IPM field programme planners and implementers in the world. It nurtured no fewer than four national Non-Governmental Organizations which will continue to support community IPM programmes in Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal and Thailand. It assisted new developments, such as “farmer life schools” in Cambodia, enabling rice-growing communities to address a broader range of issues, including the increasing prevalence of HIV/AIDS, and supported numerous examples of farmers’ research into locally relevant, regionally important field problems. Staff edited an important new book entitled “From Farmers Field Schools to Community IPM”, covering innovations by farmers in communities over 10 years. The programme Web site, www.communityipm.org, is the best source of information, case studies and contacts for rice IPM in Asia.

Work on ecological analyses of rice agro-ecosystems designed by ecologists in the regional IPM rice programme has led to several publications in world-leading ecological journals. The food webs found above the water level in flooded rice ecosystems, including nearly all major rice insect pests and their natural enemies, are strongly connected to food webs of species living in the water from the time the fields are flooded. While the major source of energy for the above-water food web is sunlight, the major source of energy for the within-water food web is decomposition of organic matter (including rice roots left from the previous harvest). This food web contains bacteria, detritivores, filter feeders and mosquito larvae, and is capped by many of the same hemipteran predators that also feed on populations of rice pest insects. If not disrupted by unnecessary pesticide applications, the predator populations build up in the rice paddies before the rice is planted. This explains the observation made in transplanted rice paddies in every continent: shortly after planting, nearly every rice plant has natural enemies on it, even though very few herbivores are actually observed. It is likely that long co-evolved freshwater ecosystems operate in a similar manner, with the result that rice benefits from crop-associated biodiversity. The lessons learnt from rice and applicable to other cropping systems are likely to be substantial, and FAO’s agrobiodiversity programme is supporting new work to achieve this end. AGPP organized a Global Workshop on “Red/Weedy Rice Control” in Varadero, Cuba, from 30 August to 3 September 1999, with the participation of specialists from Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, France, Guyana, Italy, Mexico, Nicaragua, Portugal, Senegal, Spain, the United States of America, Venezuela and Viet Nam. The workshop concluded that there is an evident increase in red rice incidence in many rice-producing countries, due to the increase in direct-seeded areas; no simple method for the control of weedy/red rice exists. Only through an integrated control approach can a reduction in weedy/red rice infestation be effectively achieved; the main sources of weedy/red rice infestation are rice seeds contaminated with weed seeds and weedy/red rice seed bank in the soil. Any control measure should therefore be aimed at a reduction in infestations from these sources.

The workshop recommended that national institutions and organizations in charge of seed production should make every effort to produce rice seeds free of weedy/red rice seeds. It is also important to create awareness at farmer level of the incidence of weedy/red rice and of the importance of controlling it in order to improve yield and yield quality and increase income. The reproduction of basic and foundation seed should be carried out in areas that are totally free of weedy/red rice infestation. Certified rice seeds should be free of weedy/red rice seeds.

A similar Workshop on “Echinochloa spp. Control” was organized by AGPP on 27 May 2001 in Beijing, China, with the participation of specialists from Australia, China, Costa Rica, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam. The workshop concluded that there is still an air of uncertainty concerning the taxonomic status of many species, subspecies, varieties and binomials of Echinochloa; that a practical manual for the identification of these species should be prepared by experts in the near future; and that such manuals should be made available to field workers and extension specialists in countries where weeds are a problem. Collaborative ecological studies on individual species of Echinochloa are of the utmost importance. This is especially important and relevant for populations displaying cross- or multiple-resistance to herbicides commonly used in rice fields. Preventative measures, such as enforcement of quarantine laws and regulations and field hygiene, may help arrest the spread of Echinochloa seeds and propagules from the source of infestation to areas devoid of the menace. Irrigation water and farm machines are two primary sources of infestation of Echinochloa, and care should be taken to educate farmers concerning the importance of keeping farm machines free from Echinochloa seeds and propagules. In addition, over-reliance on herbicides for Echinochloa control (e.g. propanil and fenoxaprop-ethyl) may lead to incidence of herbicide-resistant biotypes.

It was also recommended that farmers be advised and encouraged: to use affordable certified rice seeds devoid of Echinochloa seeds and propagules; and to practise proper tillage operations and optimize water resource management, in order to reduce reliance on herbicide-based weed control. It is acknowledged that crop rotation is the key method for depleting weed seed bank.

No less important is the problem of herbicide resistance. To this end, the labelling of rice herbicides according to their mode of action and class (similar to the labels prepared in the European Union by the crop protection industry) should be encouraged. Collaborative field surveys and monitoring of herbicide-resistant Echinochloa populations should be encouraged among weed scientists and extension specialists to help develop databases. The public and private sector should assist in running regular training courses on herbicide resistance for farm operators, extension specialists and weed scientists.

Water Resources Development and Management Service (AGLW)

Dwindling water resources have led to growing concern regarding the availability of water for future food production. Water diverted for irrigation accounts for the largest single usage and represents well over 80 percent of renewable water resources in most developing countries. Although irrigation areas occupy only 17 percent of the world’s agricultural land, they go to provide almost 45 percent of global food production. In order to meet future food requirements in 2030, it is estimated that irrigated crop production must increase by 80 percent; however, only 12 percent more water can be made available. This goal can, therefore, only be reached if irrigation water is used more efficiently and if the productivity of irrigated land increases substantially. The challenge for the coming decades will therefore be to raise crop water productivity and to produce more crop per drop. This will be valid particularly for rice production, as rice requires almost double the amount of water needed by other cereals.

As rice is the main food crop in many countries, it is essential to ensure that more rice can be grown with much less water. There are a range of options available to achieve this: more efficient irrigation systems, reduction of percolation losses in rice fields, replacing wetland rice with aerobic rice and increasing rice yield per unit of area. AGLW has given increased attention to the introduction of more efficient rice cultivation practices in its recent field and regular programme activities, and it will continue to do so.

AGLW has provided technical assistance for the introduction of efficient water management technologies for rice cultivation in a range of countries. In particular, as part of the SPFS, rice-related water management activities have been promoted under the water control component with strong backstopping from AGLW technical staff. This included projects in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Ethiopia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Nepal, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Uganda. Emphasis has been placed on the introduction of more effective water management practices related to better water distribution, irrigation scheduling, the rehabilitation and modernization of rice irrigation and drainage systems, as well as to cost-effective and efficient pump technologies (treadle pump).

The promotion of community-managed irrigation systems has proved an important strategy for promoting sustainable and efficient water management. Participatory training and extension has been an important tool for ensuring that adequate support is given to farmers in the formation of water user groups and in the introduction of efficient irrigation technologies. Farmers’ water management experience gained in the SPFS has been consolidated under the regular programme through the publication in 2001 of guidelines and manuals for participatory training and extension in farmers’ water management, with special reference to rice water management. The guidelines are published in a CD Rom and are updated through a Web site.

The regular programme includes the development of procedures for estimating crop water demand for rice using the AGLW computer program CROPWAT. Used in combination with the climatic database CLIMWAT, rice water requirements can be routinely calculated for over 3 200 stations in 144 countries. The computer program is further extended with procedures for determining irrigation scheduling under various levels of water supply and water management options, with estimates on water efficiency and rice water stress.

The AGLW-developed program, AQUASTAT, provides information on water resources available at national level - of great importance for rice irrigation. The database has been extended in recent years and currently has worldwide coverage.

Land and Plant Nutrition Management Service (AGLL)

AGLL implemented a subregional project, “Nitrogen Fertilizer Efficiency and Environmental Impact for Irrigated Rice Systems in Southeast Asia”, funded by Japan from 1995 to 1998 and involving a large number of on-station and on-farm trials and on-farm demonstrations in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. The results were as follows:

AGLL and RAP are engaged in the preparation of a document: “Concept paper on Asia’s rice-based livelihood-support systems: strengthening their role in lessening hunger and rural poverty through sustainable growth in agricultural enterprises”. Its purpose is to review the role played by such systems in supporting human livelihood and food security during the periods 2000-2015 and 2015-2030. These periods are those for which informed estimates have been made by the World Bank, IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute), FAO and others concerning agriculture’s ability to meet the food security and livelihood requirements of the projected human population in order to substantially lessen poverty levels and reduce the number of undernourished adults and children.

Within these long time frames, this document identifies candidate programmes where national organizations (public, private and civil) could be supported by FAO (in partnership with other international agencies); between 2001 and 2005, the programmes could initiate key activities in rice system production and utilization for marginal and smallholder rice farm families and for associated rural landless families. The document recognizes that increased agricultural production - while a necessary condition - is not alone a sufficient condition for lessening rural poverty, malnutrition and rural-urban migration.

AGLL is also involved in implementing one TCP project on the promotion of organic fertilizers in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (primarily in rice); and another project on soil-test-based nutrient recommendations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (including rice).

Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture (AGE)

An FAO/IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) Consultants’ Meeting on Integrated Soil, Water and Nutrient Management for Sustainable Rice-Wheat Cropping Systems in Asia was held at FAO Headquarters, Rome, from 23 to 25 August 2000. Five consultants, two observers, two IAEA staff, five FAO Headquarters staff and two FAO Regional Office staff participated in the meeting. The participants made state-of-the-art presentations on crop, soil, water and nutrient management issues in the Asian rice-wheat system. The consultants formulated recommendations for a future FAO/IAEA Coordinated Research Project (CRP) and a draft of the project document was prepared. A report of the Consultants’ Meeting can be accessed at www.iaea.org/programmes/nafa/d1/index.html.

Overall objective of the CRP: To improve the productivity and sustainability of rice-wheat cropping systems through increased efficiency of water and nutrient use.

Specific research objective: To modify existing water and nutrient management systems, and improve soil management in both traditional and emerging (raised beds, non-puddled soil, direct seeding) tillage systems, for sustainable intensification of cereal production.

Expected research outputs:

The CRP was approved in February 2001 for a period of 5 years with a projected budget of US$415 000; proposals for research contracts and agreements were received following advertisement and were evaluated in August 2001; 6 contracts and 3 agreements were awarded with the CRP commencement date of 1 October 2001. The first Research Co-ordination Meeting (RCM) of the CRP was held at IAEA Headquarters, Vienna International Centre, from 4 to 6 March 2002, followed by a training workshop held at the Soil Science Unit, FAO/IAEA Agriculture and Biotechnology Laboratory, Seibersdorf, Austria, from 7 to 8 March 2002. Five contract holders (India, Bangladesh, Nepal and China [2]), three agreement holders (IRRI, Phillipines; CIMMYT [International Centre for Maize and Wheat Improvement], India; and Australia), a representative from AGPC (FAO, Rome) and six IAEA professional staff attended the RCM. The contract holder from Pakistan was unable to attend.

A total of five technical sessions were scheduled for the RCM, during which each contract holder gave a 45-minute presentation on regional initiatives under the general title, “Rice-wheat cropping systems in each region: issues, ongoing work and future directions”. The agreement holders gave an overview of the work coordinated by IRRI and the Rice-Wheat Consortium (RWC) for the Indo Gangetic Plains (IGP) and under bilateral agreements. The overall objective, specific objective and expected outputs were reviewed. A generic proposal was developed for a common experimental design and research protocols were discussed and tentatively agreed. The main emphasis of the project is to determine nitrogen and water-use efficiency under traditional and new systems of crop establishment using nuclear-based techniques. A report of the RCM is being prepared and will be placed on the Web site mentioned above. The second RCM of the CRP is scheduled to be held in Nanjing, China, 22 to 26 September 2003.

Inland Water Resources and Aquaculture Service (FIRI):

FIRI is committed to assisting member countries in the assessment and development of aquaculture in rice-based farming systems as a means for promoting food security and securing sustainable rural development. Numerous activities have been implemented, ranging from desk studies to field support. Important activities and achievements are outlined below.

Raising the awareness of policy-makers concerning the importance of integrating aquaculture into farming systems and documenting case studies has been an important FIRI activity during the intersessional period of the IRC (see publications listed on p. 30-31). FIRI is currently in the process of finalizing two commissioned reviews on rice-fish farming and on integrated livestock-fish systems - to be published jointly with ICLARM (International Centre for Living Aquatic Resources) and AGAP (Animal Production Service), respectively.

An FAO Workshop on “Integrated Irrigation and Aquaculture (IIA)”, held in Accra, Ghana, in September 1999, resulted in a proposal for an African network. As a consequence, FIRI, in cooperation with RAFI, RAFA, AGPC, AGLW and AGPP, initiated a feasibility study on rice-fish farming in the West African region and helped develop a programme profile for selected countries in the West African region. Several smaller case studies in countries such as Côte d’Ivoire and Madagascar were commissioned to complement the picture on the status and potential of expanding IIA systems. Sharing the results of these studies and discussion of a strategy for further development were on the agenda for the FAO-WARDA Consultation on II Ain West Africa, held at WARDA, Côte d’Ivoire from 8 to 11 July 2002.

Several studies and analyses have been initiated by FIRI on the availability and use of aquatic organisms in rice-based farming in selected sites characterized by rich aquatic biodiversity and where traditional knowledge is applied - in Cambodia, China, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Viet Nam. This work has been funded by the Interdepartmental Working Group on Biodiversity and supported by the UNDP project on the promotion of aquaculture in the northern uplands of Viet Nam. Another UNDP project, which helped develop aquaculture in rice-based systems in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic through a variety of training and extension activities, was completed in December 2000. In February 2002, an FAO/NACA (Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific) Regional Consultation was held in Bangkok focusing on the role of small-scale aquaculture and aquatic resource management in poverty alleviation. The outcome of this Consultation, together with the findings of the aquatic resource studies, are important components of a regional initiative: STREAM (Support to Regional Aquatic Resources Management), which deals with aquatic products derived from rice-based systems. The founding members of this “learning and communications initiative” are FAO, NACA, VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) and DFID (Department for International Development, UK).

Opportunities exist for the development of aquaculture in rice-based farming in Latin America, possibly facilitated through interregional South-South collaboration; efforts are underway to make documents, such as the Integrated Agriculture-Aquaculture Primer, available to a wider audience. Possibilities for rice diversification through aquaculture will be explored initially with Guyana, which has recently approached FAO in this regard.

Relevant publications by FIRI Headquarters staff (Rome, Italy) and its Regional Aquaculture Officers in Asia and the Pacific (Bangkok, Thailand) and Africa (Accra, Ghana) include:

Agro-Industries and Post-Harvest Service (AGSI)

AGSI rice-related activities are listed below:

Basic Foodstuffs Service (ESCB)

One of the activities of the Rice and Roots and Tubers Group in the Basic Foodstuffs Service of the Commodities and Trade Division relates to the servicing of the Intergovernmental Group (IGG) on Rice, which meets once every 2 years.

Since 1999, the IGG on Rice has met twice. The 39th Session was held jointly with the IGG on Grains in Rome in September 1999. The 40th Session of the IGG on Rice was subsequently convened in Rome in July 2001, together with the IGG on Grains, the IGG on Meat and Dairy and the IGG on Oilseeds, Oils and Fats. The IGG reviewed the major problems and issues facing the world rice economy, including its short-term market outlook and prospects. It also analysed the longer-term outlook to 2010, based on the results of the FAO World Food Model. Other topics were discussed, including government policy changes that could affect global production, trade, consumption, stocks and food aid in rice.

In addition, a conference was held to discuss the role and implications for food security of biotechnology breakthroughs in the field of basic food commodities. The IGG on Rice, in its role as International Commodity Body for rice vis-à-vis the CFC, is also responsible for sponsoring projects for funding by the CFC. During the 40th Session of the IGG on Rice, the Secretariat (Rice Group of ESCB) informed the Group of the submission for approval of the project, “Bridging the Irrigated Rice Yield Gap in Venezuela and Brazil”, submitted by the Latin American Fund for Irrigated Rice (FLAR). The project aims to raise the productivity of irrigated rice by developing and introducing improved rice production packages in selected countries in Latin America. The Rice and Roots and Tubers unit of ESCB regularly contributes a review and short-term outlook for the rice market to “Food Outlook”, FAO’s bimonthly publication. In addition, the Group provides an analysis of the most recent developments in the global rice market through its Rice Market Monitor, which can be found on the FAO Web site.

Food and Nutrition Division (ESN)

The 56th meeting of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) evaluated the safety of certain mycotoxins occurring in foods. The assessments for ochratoxin and trichotecenes (deoxynivalenol, T-2 and HT-2 toxins) - known contaminants of rice - will be used by the Codex Alimentarius Commission when considering maximum levels for rice and rice products. The Codex Standard for Rice (CODEX STAN 198-1995) has been unaltered during this period. Project work has examined intraspecies variation in the nutrient content of different rice cultivars. Several conference papers, posters and reports have been prepared. Two review papers were presented at international conferences,[3]and the FAO/UNU INFOODS Journal of Food Composition and Analysis published two research articles on the composition of rice and rice products.[4]

Extension, Education and Communication Service (SDRE)

During 2001, SDRE conducted two studies to identify the constraints and prospects of wider adoption of hybrid rice by farmers. These studies were done in India and Viet Nam and included field surveys and interviews with the main stakeholders (farmers, extension staff, researchers and private company representatives). The findings from the studies are to be used as a basis for the development during the second phase (2002) of appropriate extension strategies. For this purpose, stakeholder workshops will be organized in each study country to discuss the findings of the studies before developing extension strategies. Before designing the studies, the Senior Officer for Agricultural Extension and Training undertook missions to Viet Nam, Bangladesh and the Philippines in order to gain a better understanding of the hybrid rice cultivation situation.

CONCLUSIONS AND SUMMARY

Despite FAO’s limited resources, the IRC Secretariat has implemented several important rice and rice-related activities: the Expert Consultation on Yield Gap and Productivity in Rice Production was convened in Rome in 2002; the Thirty-first Session of the FAO Conference adopted the Resolution on the International Year of Rice 2004; two memoranda (one between FAO and IRRI, and another between FAO and WARDA) were signed; and considerable progress was made in the dissemination of hybrid rice and relative information. Important roles have been played by the technical units of FAO:


[1] With the collaboration of members of the IRC Steering Committee: V.N.Nguyen (AGPC), M.Larinde (AGPS), P.Kenmore (AGPP -Global IPM Facility), R.Labrada (AGPP), M.Smith (AGLW), R.Roy (AGLL), P.M.Chalk (AGE), M.Halwart (FIRI), D.Mejia (AGSI), C.Calpe (ESCB), B.Burlingame (ESNA) and K.Qamar (SDRE).
[2] For further information, please visit: www.fao.org/WAICENT/FAOINFO/AGRICULT/AGP/AGPC/doc.
[3] Kennedy, G. & Burlingame, B. 2001. Analysis of food composition data on rice from a plant genetic resources base. Fourth International Food Data Conference, Bratislava, Slovakia, p. 36.
Kennedy, G. & Burlingame, B. 2001. Nutritional contribution of rice and impact of biotechnology and biodiversity in rice-consuming countries. Presented for publication in the Proceedings of the IRC Conference, July 2002, Bangkok.
[4] Agte, V.V., Tarwadi, K.V. & Chiplonkar, S.A. 1999. Phytate degradation during traditional cooking: Significance of the phytic acid profile in cereal-based vegetarian meals. J. of Food Composition and Analysis, 12(3): 161-167.
Samuda, P.M., Bushway, A.A., Beecher, G.R., Cook, R.A., Work, R., Cook, C.M. & Bushway, R.J. 1998. Nutrient content of five commonly consumed Jamaican foods. J. of Food Composition and Analysis, 11(3): 262273.

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