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Strategies to sustain and enhance Asia-Pacific rice production - R.B. Singh,a T. Woodheadb and M.K. Papademetriouc

a Assistant Director-General, b Consultant and c Senior Plant Production and Protection Officer Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, FAO, Bangkok, Thailand

INTRODUCTION

The goal of the World Food Summit is to halve the number of undernourished people in the world in the period 1995-2015. To achieve this goal, it is essential to enhance and sustain rice productivity and production. About nine-tenths of the world’s rice is produced and consumed within FAO’s Asia and the Pacific region. For the 3 billion people living in Asia, rice provides one-third or more of the dietary energy requirement. And for several South and Southeast Asian countries within that region, rice accounts for between two-fifths and four-fifths of the food energy and protein requirements. Global food security thus depends strongly on rice security in Asia and the Pacific.

Some East and Southeast Asian countries are on schedule for reaching this goal within the set time frame. Other countries - notably in South Asia - are behind schedule, the reasons for which need to be analysed and remedies applied through country- and ecozone-specific policies and strategies.

Such strategies should be based on previous successes and best-practice experiences, taking into consideration new opportunities relevant to the prevailing challenges, as well as the lessons learned from previous unsuccessful endeavours and from the limitations of the green revolution. Strategies must also recognize and accommodate the individual characteristics of the various rice-based production and livelihood systems, as expressed through their agrobiological, technological and socio-economic features.

Figures for the period 1998-2000 reveal that the Asian ricelands have an annual harvest area of 135 million ha (Mha); they nurture 200 million bovine livestock and rather fewer small ruminants; they are tended by nearly 300 million people, accounting for a large proportion of the world’s farm-family households. In several countries, rice has a cultural and a political dimension.

FAO (2001b) reports that global (and Asian) rice production in 2000 was 3 percent less than in 1999 (and 2000 production was also less than consumption in the same year), and 2001 production was 1 percent less than in 2000. This decreased production was a consequence of slackening consumer demand, some crop failures and, in particular, declining rice prices. Indeed, between 1997-99 and 2000, the FAO rice-price index declined from 123 to 98 (its lowest value since 1987), and subsequently to 88 in May 2001, with a slight recovery to 90 in August 2001 (Figure 1). The global rice reserves were sufficient to satisfy demand.

FIGURE 1
Comparison of prices and rice paddy production

The region accounted for about 75 percent (18 million tonnes [Mt]) of world rice exports and for more than half (nearly 13 Mt) of world rice imports in 1999-2001. During the last decade, rice trade (both exports and imports) in the region has been increasing (Figure 2).

FIGURE 2
Average annual rice trade in Asia-Pacific region

During the last four decades, rice helped to lessen hunger and poverty and to sustain livelihoods; the unit cost of rice production decreased by 30 percent, while rice prices decreased by 40 percent. During 1970-2000, incomes doubled; and during 1970-1998, the number of non-poor increased from 1.80 to 2.37 billion, and the number of adequately-nourished persons from 1.12 to 2.56 billion.

Nevertheless, hunger and poverty persist in Asian rice-growing countries: in East and South Asia in 1997 there were 800 million poor and 520 million undernourished people (including 125 million preschool children) - in both cases, two-thirds of the world total.

Asia’s contiguous submerged-soil ricelands are agro-ecologically unique. Rice has adapted to the particular soil-chemical and microbiological conditions that result from prolonged soil submergence. The bunded, terraced rice fields have supported Asian civilizations for 5 000 years, permitting the sustainable use of land and encouraging biodiversity. Irrigation-submerged ricelands account for just over half the rice harvest area and three-quarters of the region’s rice production. The non-irrigated ricelands are home to a large proportion of the region’s hungry and poor.

Only during the last three decades have the various ricelands come under threat from human activities. However, despite dietary preferences for higher-value foods, production must increase to 540 Mt per year by 1996, 665 Mt by 2015 and 765 Mt by 2030. The average rice yield must, therefore, increase also: from 3.5 to 4.6 t/ha during the period from 1996 to 2030, implying a yield growth rate of 1.2 percent per year during 1996-2015 and 0.6 percent per year during 2015-2030 (compared to 2.3% per year achieved during 1975-1995).

If during 2003-2030 there is a succession of years in which Asian rice production fails to meet its annual requirement of about 600 Mt - and noting the rest-of-the-world annual production of a mere 60 Mt - substitution with alternative foods would be an immense task. Indeed, the size and pro-poor nature of the Asian rice system means that it has enormous potential for both positive and negative impact on world food security and politico-economic stability.

The strategies to increase and sustain rice productivity may be divided into four areas, each comprising several components. The strategies and components are mutually interactive and supportive. The four areas are listed below and the relative components outlined:

1. Preserving and realizing the gains achieved during the green revolution in:

- Integrated Crop Management
- Integrated Pest Management
- yield-gap bridging
- increasing on-farm yields
- lessening post-harvest losses

2. Increasing potential for rice yields and for value-adding enterprises in:

- germplasm improvement: conventional procedures and biotechnological and molecular methods
- grain quality and product-value enhancement
- rice-system diversification

3. Facilitating integrated and environment-friendly management of natural resources for:

- water
- soil health and integrated plant nutrition
- greenhouse-gas emissions
- biodiversity
- ecoregional aspects

4. Initiating appropriate policies for:

- increased investment in rice systems and in rice research and technologies development
- markets, prices, globalization and employment
- human-resources strengthening, communications and cooperation

The strategies are described in further detail below.

PRESERVE AND REALIZE THE ACHIEVED GAINS Integrated Crop Management

Several rice farmers integrate the management of a rice crop and its incorporation within the rice-based cropping system and farming system. They also integrate the management with the targets of: maximum production at minimal risk (for home consumption); or maximum profit (for sale of quality grain or of products and by-products for value-adding processing and marketing). Within-season crop husbandry thus integrates: seed and plant population; crop establishment; land, soil, water, nutrient and pest management (the latter for weeds, insects, diseases, rodents and molluscs); and effective deployment of human and financial resources. Many of these aspects are addressed in one or more of the several strategy components; most of them have been incorporated within the various rice-production packages formulated by national research and extension systems. Such packages include the “Seven-Techniques Procedure” adopted in China, “Masagana-99” and its successors in the Philippines, and “Insus” and its successors in Indonesia. These packages feature technological recommendations, supported by micro-finance and extension services.

A recent complement to these technological and financial packages is represented by the Australian “Ricecheck” system. This participatory system specifies within-season target values for the key technological variables affecting rice productivity and profit. The novel aspect is the individual farmer’s regular monitoring of the crop in relation to the target values, adopting the dictum: Observe, Measure, Record, Interpret, Act. By following this dictum, each farmer generates crucial inputs for the regular, participatory, extension-guided group discussions and evaluations of their own rice management achievements; and hence for their determination of improved management for future seasons. The Ricecheck approach is being adapted and developed by Indonesian agencies and farmers as part of an FAO-assisted production-system oriented priority-area interdisciplinary action (PAIA).

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Successful rice crop management requires the effective and integrative management of various within-season and post-harvest pests. The numerous within-season pests include: weeds, insect pests, diseases (bacterial, fungal and viral), rodents and molluscs. Integrated management implies a combination of cultural management and insecticide applications, guided by field monitoring of pest-insect populations and by decision-support strategies.

Integrated insect pest management for rice in Asia goes back to the 1960-1970s, when there was a crop protection crisis resulting from: repetitive monoculture of the new high-yielding varieties; increased applications of fertilizers (particularly nitrogen) modifying crop microclimates; and misuse of pesticides.

The crisis had both ecological and human dimensions. There was insufficient awareness of the new varieties’ prospective susceptibility to pest insects. When varieties did indeed become susceptible, new varieties were bred or selected with resistance to the particular pests, and synthetic pesticides were applied more frequently. Unfortunately, the new resistance was overcome as new pest bio-types resistant to the pesticides emerged (as was the case of brown planthopper). Furthermore, the synthetic pesticides caused a drastic decrease in the populations of beneficial insects and spiders that exerted some biological control on the pest insects. At human level, farmers were passive recipients of the technology packages (incorporating insect-control components) and human resource development for farm families was neglected.

The two dimensions (ecological and human) were successfully addressed in the 1980s through the FAO-facilitated Rice IPM Programme. In particular, the role of beneficial organisms was quantified, as was the disruptive effect of pesticides on the biological pest control of those organisms. These insights were incorporated as part of participatory farmer training (farmer field schools) whereby the farmers became effective IPM practitioners. The farmer field school procedure now has over 2 million graduates and is widely adopted and commended. The continuing challenges (and relative strategy) are: to support the many millions of rice farmers who are not yet aware of IPM procedures; and to strengthen national crop protection policies conducive to IPM.

Yield-gap bridging

The methodology of yield gap and constraints analysis provides an opportunity to maximize the rice productivity benefits gained with the current and newly-emerging rice cultivars and crop management procedures. The part of the rice yield gap which may be bridged by farmers - and which is expressed as the difference between the realistically (and economically) achievable on-farm yield and the actual on-farm yield - has various causes and components. In particular, it may result from farmers’ lack of technical knowledge, or from inadequate institutional supports for provision of technical knowledge and the requisite agrotechnological and microfinancial inputs.

For irrigated rice, average on-farm yield is now about 5 t/ha. Rice cultivars with appreciably higher yield potential could raise this average to 6 t/ha by 2005. Yield-gap-driven interventions made between 2003 and 2006 and addressing physico-chemical (including soil and water) and biological-microbiological (including pest) constraints could further raise this average by 2010.

In non-irrigated rainfed lowland ecozones, the average rice yield is about 2.5 t/ha. Improved cultivars and yield-gap-driven interventions during 2003-2006 might raise yield to 4 t/ha by 2010. Dominant constraints in the rainfed lowlands include shortage or excess of water (as well as the shortness of the growing season), soil deficiencies and toxicities, and pests and diseases.

In the rainfed uplands and the rainfed flood-prone swamplands, rice yields are 1.3 and 1.6 t/ha, respectively. Upland yields are limited by soil-chemical constraints, a situation which is further exacerbated by erosion of surface soil, drought, fungal disease (blast) and weeds. In flood-prone systems, both water excess and water shortage, as well as the difficulty of applying nutrients, are over-riding constraints. Yield gap procedures are less developed for these resource-poor ecozones; the strongest options for increasing and sustaining yields in such environments are rice cultivar improvement, the adoption of current best practices for sloping uplands, and the application of emerging cool season cultivars and flood-escape strategies in flood-prone areas.

However, in all non-irrigated ecozones, rice yield is also limited by the economic risk associated with the unpredictability of the various biotic and abiotic constraints and stresses. Nevertheless, various national and international agencies now accord priority to non-irrigated ricelands with the aim of lessening poverty and improving food insecurity.

For irrigated and favourably-rainfed lowlands, the yield-gap methodology can be incorporated as part of a rice-check approach.

Rice seed quality and vigour are important factors in any approach and in all ecosystems. Quality seed increases yield by 9 to 15 percent and produces grain of higher quality and price. But only one-fifth of Asian ricelands receive high quality seeds. Seed management is often the preserve of the female family members: training and microfinance support would help them increase and sustain rice yields and production.

Ensuring progressive increase in on-farm yields

The topic of time trends in crop yields (in particular irrigated rice yields) has in recent years been subject to much analysis, including the conjecture that nitrogen may be immobilized by phenols within the lignins that accumulate in continuously submerged soils. There has also been a certain amount of irresponsible economic analysis concerning rice yield trends.

Recent surveys for rice have reported that:

“on 75 Mha of irrigated rice farms there is no evidence of rice-yield decline during 1990-2000, except in specific instances for which causes (and in some cases, remedies) can be identified” (IRRI, 2001a).

Likewise, from the 1960s to the 1990s, there were consistent annual yield increases of about 45 kg/ha for rice in Southeast Asia, and of about 45 kg/ha for wheat in South Asia. Correspondingly, FAO/RAP indicators for Asia indicate that for almost all Asian rice-growing countries, crop yields and indices of agricultural and food production from an essentially constant-area resource base continued to increase throughout 1995-99, despite El Niño, floods and cyclones, and regional economic crises.

The suspicion of yield decline in irrigated rice-rice and rice-wheat sequences has been firmly dispelled by a highly competent, all-Asia analysis of 30 sites in nine countries (IRRI, 2001; FAO, 2001f), on the basis of which Greenland concluded:

“so far are as there is any yield-decline in appropriately-fertilized rice in long-term experimental studies, such declines are episodic and atypical” (IRRI, 2001a).

Declines were often reported on the basis of poor quality experimentation.

For most Asian rice-growing countries, there are data series for national average rice yields (aggregate of irrigated and non-irrigated) covering the entire period from 1960 to 1999. Such series permit trend analysis of the whole 40-year period and of component segments (usually 10-year) within that period. For such periods and segments, the yield trend statistic normally calculated, published, interpreted and used in policy deliberations is the annual compound growth rate, calculated on the assumption that the statistic remains constant throughout the particular period. If in long-term data series this statistic is less for later components than for earlier ones, concern may be expressed that there is decline in yield, or a deterioration in the resource system.

More than four-fifths of the requisite progressive increases (2003-2030) in rice production must come from increases in rice yields, obtained via increased yield potential and expansion of irrigated area, as well as through the diagnosis and reduction of yield gaps. For this yield gap (and rice-check) approach, it is necessary to strengthen extension services, in particular services expressly suited to the increasing number of female rice farmers - an investment which would result quite cost-effective.

Similarly, investment in farmer training should be increased through farmer field schools and family training, with particular attention to younger family members on the farm. Indeed, the increased literacy, numeracy and computer competence of the next generation of farmers will facilitate both the adoption of more complex rice system procedures and the recognition of opportunities in rice production and rice system enterprise.

It is, therefore, necessary to document past (1960-1999) and recent (1999-2001) experiences in on-farm yields and national and regional rice production. In Southeast Asia, rice yields showed a typical increase of about 45 kg/ha from the 1960s through to the 1990s. Moreover, in the 17 East Asian and South Asian developing countries that annually harvest at least 600 000 ha of rice (Table 1), rice yield and production increased during 1990-2000 for all except the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea; in Bangladesh, Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Pakistan, Thailand and Viet Nam, rice production saw an annual increase of at least 2.5 percent.

TABLE 1
Rice production and human nourishment: Asian rice-producing countries

Country (by regional group)a

Rice production

Rice production growth rate (%/year)c

Kcal/person-day at 1998c

Rice in total kcal/person-day (%)c

Rice (rainfed or irrigated) yield (t/ha)c

(Mt/year) b

(kg/person)b

China

198

160

0.7

2 972

35

6.3

DPR Korea

2.0

85

?

2 000?

38

?3.8

Korea Rep.

7.2

160

0?

3 069

35

6.8

Cambodia

3.6

330

6.2?

2 078

80

1.8

Indonesia

49

240

1.2

2 850

56

4.3

Lao PDR

1.8

330

4.4

2 175

67

2.9

Malaysia

2.0

95

0.5

2 901

33

2.9

Myanmar

17

360

3.6

2 832

77

3.2

Philippines

11

155

1.9

2 288

40

3.0

Thailand

23

390

2.8

2 462

56

2.3

Viet Nam

29

375

5.5

2 422

70

4.1

Bangladesh

29

240

2.6

2 050

74

3.1

India

128

130

2.0

2 466

31

2.9

Iran

2.5

40

1.4

2 822

?

4.2

Nepal

3.6

160

2.4

2 170

35

2.5

Pakistan

6.8

45

4.4

2 447

5

2.9

Sri Lanka

2.5

135

0.9

2 314

41

3.2

a Regional groups: Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia.

b Rice production (Mt/year and kg/person) is representative of 1997-99.

c? indicates doubtful or not reported.

Note: Several statistics pre-date the 1997-99 economic crises in Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia; growth rate (%/year) is for 1990-2000; rice (%) in total kcal/person-day relates to 1992.

Source: FAO, 2000b, 2001a; IRRI, 1997.

Worryingly, recent analysis of India and Bangladesh, using 6-year segments of the time series data for rice yield and trend, suggests that for India (but not Bangladesh) the rate of increase of rice yield and production will by 2003 fall below the projected rate of growth of the human population. For two other major producers and consumers of rice - China and Indonesia - it is possible that near-term rice production increases may be less than the population increase.

Reduce post-harvest losses

Losses during and after rice harvest typically consume between 10 and 15 percent of the grain generated by the crop. Losses are experienced in both quality and quantity, and are therefore felt in terms of: net returns to the season’s endeavours; household and national food security; and poor grain suitability for value-adding processing and employment. (Note that grain quality and market value are diminished by suboptimal colour, cleanliness and moisture, as well as by infestations.)

Inappropriate grain moisture content can cause losses during the various stages of milling: hulling, polishing, blowing, separating and grading. Drying large quantities of grain, usually by sun-drying on paved surfaces, can affect quality and reduce quantity by between 1 and 5 percent.

Harvesting, handling, threshing, cleaning, transport and spillage or leakage can account for losses of between 2 and 5 percent. Storage losses before and after drying (due to moulds, insects and rodents) may consume an additional 5 to 9 percent of the stored grain. It is thus pertinent that about four-fifths of the harvested grain is held in on-farm storage (Hicks, 1988), and only one-fifth in warehouses, bins and controlled-atmosphere silos. In a few countries, part of the harvested grain may be parboiled; although there may still be deterioration where procedures are suboptimal, effective parboiling generally decreases losses and preserves cracked grains. Loss-lessening strategies entail the wider adoption of the currently-available best practices and equipment, together with testing, grading and quality control of grain stored off-farm (Hicks, 1995).

INCREASING YIELD POTENTIALS AND VALUE-ADDING OPPORTUNITIES

Germplasm improvement: conventional procedures, and biotechnological and molecular methods

In meeting the forecast requirements for rice production during 2003-2030, a key strategy is the progressive improvement of rice germplasm, in terms of both yield potential (in both constrained and non-constrained environments) and grain (and by-product) qualities appropriate to specific uses and applications. Within that strategy, conventional breeding and biotechnological procedures have mutually supportive roles.

In the near term (2003-08), an important contribution will be made by the conventional methods of hybridization and selection for the creation of ecozone-specific materials. Numerous new rice plant types with high productivity have been conceived during the last 10 years. These new plant types have fewer tillers per plant, more grains per panicle and stiffer (less lodging-prone) stems. In tropical Asia they have a harvest index of 0.6 and a yield potential of 12 t/ha (compared to 0.5 and 10 t/ha for current high-yielding cultivars).

TABLE 2
Yield potential: irrigated rice in tropical ecozones, 1970-1990-2010

Period

Cultivar

Seed-to-seed duration
(days)

Yield potential per season
(kg/ha)

Yield potential per day
(kg/ha)

1970

IR 8

150

10 000

67

1990

Various indica

130

10 000

77

2010

New plant type

130

12 000

92

Breeding lines for these new plant types are at various stages of evaluation and testing in tropical and semitropical ecozones.

For yield potential, the progressive increase during the 40-year period 1970-2010 is usefully represented in terms of yield potential per day (not per season). This measure of potential accommodates the efficiency with which the crop uses the various biological, physical, human and financial resources. Table 2 shows the progressive and substantial growth in yield potential of tropical rice during this period.

Hybrid rices, developed and commercialized in China during the 1970s, have a yield advantage of about 15 percent compared to conventionally selected cultivars. For the extensive double-cropped Yangtze Valley rice area, early-maturing high-yielding hybrids have been specifically developed. Throughout China, various hybrid rices are grown on over half the riceland, although this proportion may now be declining (Husain et al., 2001).

Other rice-growing countries (India, Viet Nam, Philippines, Bangladesh and Indonesia) also have programmes for the commercialization of hybrid rice, but progress has been much slower than in China, for reasons that should perhaps be investigated and remedied. One probable reason is that the low yields of F1 seed in these countries result in hybrid seed prices that are beyond the means of resource-poor farmers.

The benefits of heterosis have been further exploited in China by combining the attributes of hybrid rices with those of the new plant type, thereby generating a (semi-tropical) yield potential of between 15 and 16 t/ha, and an on-farm yield in 2001 of 9.2 t/ha on 1.2 Mha. Second-generation hybrid rice can reach on-farm yields of 12 t/ha (Yuan, 2002). Additionally, two-line hybrids grown in 2001 on nearly 2 Mha (and the area is increasing) may further raise on-farm yields.

Biotechnological and molecular breeding approaches to raising yield potential are pursued in several national and international programmes. In the development of “super hybrids” in China, a prospective 35 percent yield advantage has been demonstrated (Yuan, 2002) with a new hybrid created using a restorer line recently developed through molecular approaches.

Various abiotic and biotic stresses constrain farmers’ ability to realize the available yield potentials. For abiotic stresses (notably soil salinity), progress in conventional cultivar development has been slow, despite some success in developing cultivars with tolerance to 10-day submergence, water shortage, cool temperatures and some soil-chemical constraints. The various constraints (e.g. shortage or excess of water, aberrant temperature, soil-chemical deficiencies and toxicities [including salinity] and pests) might in part be addressed through genetic fortification of rices with high yield potential. Evaluations are currently underway in the coastal wetlands of Bangladesh of various lines identified through molecular assisted selection.

Genetic fortification can be vertical or horizontal, involving oligogenes and polygenes, with gene pyramiding through recombination (possibly mutation) breeding. Khush and Brar (2002) transferred from wild rices into Oryza sativa various genes conferring resistance to diseases (in particular sheath blight and some viruses) and pests (notably stem borer) and tolerance of some soil toxicities. These transferred genes included toxin-coding genes from Bacillus thuringiensis, chitinase genes and genes that facilitate coat-protein-mediated protection. This biotechnological methodology, which will be strengthened as additional genes conferring other resistances or tolerances are identified and stocked, is a powerful supplement to the conventional breeding procedures that hitherto have had limited success in combating biotic and abiotic stresses.

The increase in non-agricultural needs for Asia’s renewable water resources requires that more rice be produced with less water. Therefore, despite the fact that current wetland rice cultivars derive advantage from their adaptation to submerged soil and its chemical and microbiological conditions, multidisciplinary cultivar development programmes are now selecting high-yielding, fertilizer- and irrigation-responsive lines for soils that are not continuously submerged.

The incorporation of the C4-photosynthesis pathway into rice (a C3-pathway plant) may be expected not only to raise water-use efficiency but also to provide tolerance to the increase in air temperature experienced worldwide. There has been some preliminary success (in Japan and USA) in transferring C4 genes from maize to rice. Additionally, and unexpectedly, a conventionally-bred recombinant from IRRI’s perennial rice development programme has an unusually high rate of carbon dioxide assimilation.

Conventional breeding has also created rice cultivars enriched with iron, zinc and vitamin A. Trials of these cultivars involving paired sisters are ongoing, with particular attention to nutritional aspects, food safety and biosafety. The vitamin-A-enriched rice (“golden rice”) holds high promise for Asia, where more than three-fifths of the global prevalence of vitamin A deficiency occurs - a condition which results in irreversible blindness and 1 million fatalities every year among the poor. Vitamin-Adevelopment is the result of a pioneering pro-poor pro-hungry partnership of private and public sector institutions.

There has also been a public-private partnership in rice genomics: between the Japan-led International Rice Genomics Consortium and by the Syngenta Company. The recently published rice genome map associates the nearly 50 000 rice genes with their particular chromosomes (12 in total). Research into functional genomics must now identify individual genes and combinations and determine their purpose.

Grain quality and product value enhancement

“Grain quality” describes the extent to which a particular sample of grain is suited to its intended function - whether for table rice for identified consumers, or for value-adding processing into specific products with properties known to be acceptable to the targeted purchasers. Quality thus depends both on the inherent characteristics of the germplasm, including its concentrations of proteins, vitamins, micronutrients and lipids, and on the extent to which within-season and post-harvest management achieves and preserves these inherent properties to the satisfaction of consumers and purchasers. Of these properties, the apparent amylose content (AC), i.e. the within-starch ratio of amylose to amylopectin, is of paramount importance. It quantifies both the eating acceptability for geographically identifiable consumer groups, and the suitability for processing into particular products. Grain quality and market value may be affected by a series of factors: grain colour and cleanliness, intensity of infestations, grain damage occurring during processing at inappropriate moisture content, and substandard storage or transport.

Throughout the region, preferences vary: low AC (japonica) rice in the northeastern countries (northern China, Japan, Korea DPR, Republic of Korea and Taiwan Province of China); extremely low AC (waxy) rice in western Indochina; low-intermediate AC throughout tropical Southeast Asia (from southern China and eastern Indochina to Indonesia); and higher AC and Basmati rices in South Asia (notably, India and Pakistan, and parboiled rice in Bangladesh). Brown rice, with the option for premilling pressurized moisture-conditioning permitting high recovery of vitamins, minerals, and proteins, is likely to become increasingly popular as populations become more health conscious.

Depending on the AC, the use of rice in added-value processing varies: lowest AC grains are used for desserts, cakes, crackers and sauces; low AC for baby foods and breakfast cereals (popped, puffed or flaked); intermediate AC for soups, crackling and fermented cake; and high AC grain for noodles. Additionally, rice may be processed into flours, starches, batters and thickeners, pre-cooked or quick-cooking convenience foods, and syrups, wines and spirits. The vertical diversification of rice products will greatly increase the economic competitiveness of rice.

Of the various rice by-products, rice bran has the greatest usage and potential, particularly (as with brown rice) as an ingredient in health-enhancing dietary-fibre foods and in products that can lower blood cholesterol levels. Bran is also used as a feed supplement for sheep, pigs and poultry, and in the manufacture of wax and cooking oil. Broken rice may be used as non-broken milled rice - in flours, starches, syrups, beers, wines and spirits, as well as poultry feed.

Rice straw has many potential and proven uses, but there are often more convenient alternatives; straw therefore remains underutilized and often burnt. Within rice communities, straw may be rendered palatable to livestock through treatment with urea or appropriate microbiological inoculants. Rice hull (or husk) is, like straw, much produced and little used. There is some minor usage as sheep-feed supplement, and it can also be used in the production of ceramics, fibreboard and silica. Technologies and prototypes are available for using rice hull as fuel, either in direct combustion (briquette) or by gasification to produce fuel for internal combustion engines that generate electricity (FAO, 1991). Additionally, there may be options (horizontal diversification) for rice communities to undertake large-scale coordinated cultivation of high thermal-efficiency biofuel crops for which there already exist successful prototypes for medium-scale electricity generators. Such energy generation could be perceived within an Agenda 21/Kyoto Protocol scenario, particularly for rice-growing countries that are not petroleum producers (Woodhead and Singh, 2002).

Rice-system diversification

Rice-based farming systems are crucial for strengthening livelihoods and alleviating hunger and poverty in rural Asia-Pacific (Woodhead and Singh, 2002). They also provide a range of poverty-escape mechanisms for poor smallholder families and for rural landless-labourer families (Dixon et al., 2001). Diversification of farming systems - by increasing the proportion of land and other resources devoted to non-rice crops, livestock, fish and their value-adding processing - can help generate the additional income and employment needed to combat hunger and escape poverty. Part of the additional income can be used to finance investment and improved management to enhance and sustain the rice productivity and production required during 2003-2030. Moreover, an appreciable enhancement of rice productivity would permit the release of resources (land, water, finance, skills and time), thus facilitating the desired diversification of cropping systems, farming systems and associated micro-enterprises.

There is a wide variety of rice-based cropping systems, both irrigated and non-irrigated. In almost all ecozones (with the exception of some flood-prone areas), the monsoon crop is rice and the main subsequent crops (where conditions and circumstances allow) are rice or wheat. The rice-rice sequence is thus practised on about 28 Mha (in China, India, Indonesia and Viet Nam) and rice-wheat on about 25 Mha (in the Indo-Gangetic Plains and in central and southern China). Other sequences common throughout Asia and the Pacific are rice-fallow (particularly in non-irrigated ecozones), rice-oilseed, rice-rice-legume, and multi-year rice-oil crop-sugar cane-sugar cane-wheat. Prominent post-rice crops are: rice, wheat, oilseed and green manure in China; rice, wheat, pulse, oilseed, groundnut and sorghum in India; and chilli, onion and groundnut in Sri Lanka. Rice-fallow-jute is common in Bangladesh, and rice-wheat-maize and rice-potato-maize in Nepal. In Southeast Asia, dominant post-rice crops are: maize, garlic and tobacco in the Philippines; soybean, mung bean and peanut in Thailand; and potato, vegetable, maize, peanut, groundnut and soybean in Viet Nam.

In addition to the above-mentioned crop sequences, there are niche-specific options for rice and non-rice intercroppings, mixed croppings and relay croppings. High-productivity, cool season, post-monsoon rice is increasingly and profitably adopted in appropriate ecozones.

Rice-fish systems are practised on only 1 percent of ricelands. This low figure reflects the pressure on the living aquatic resource (whether indigenous or anthropogenic) from intensive use of agrochemicals.

Livestock, on the other hand, features prominently and increasingly in many rice-farming systems. Poultry (chickens and ducks, indigenous and improved) is important, as are ruminants, which are a source of savings, income, meat, milk, hides and draught power. Poultry and ruminants both generate manure and compost, which tend, however, to be allocated to high-value vegetable and horticultural crops rather than to rice, despite the fact that they would substantially decrease the quantity of manufactured fertilizers required by high-yielding rice crops.

As each generation of rice farmers is increasingly educated and therefore able to adopt and manage more complex systems and to recognize entrepreneurial opportunities, the synergy of rice-crop intensification and rice-system diversification will be progressively appreciated and adopted by smallholder rice-farm families.

INTEGRATED AND ENVIRONMENT-FRIENDLY MANAGEMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES

Water

Despite rural Asia and the Pacific’s substantial resources of annual internally renewable fresh water, the dense population means that water availability per inhabitant is little more than half the global average. Indeed, water per inhabitant in Asia declined by about half between 1955 and 1990, and it is forecast to decline by one-third of its 1990 value during the period 1990-2025 (Guerra et al., 1998). In areas of China, India and Pakistan, per caput water availability will be so low by 2025 that these areas will be deemed “absolutely water-scarce”. Notably, agriculture (in particular irrigated rice agriculture) consumes about 84 percent of Asia’s diverted water (FAO, 2000c), about half of which is for rice; in Southeast Asia, rice comprises more than 90 percent of the irrigated crop area. Estimates for irrigated rice area are given in Table 3 (Woodhead and Singh, 2002).

TABLE 3
Indicators for irrigation and plant nutrient resources: Asian rice-producing countries

Country
(by regional group)a

Irrigated riceland (estimate)
(Mha)b

Fertilizer/agric. land 1996-99
(kg/ha/year)bc

N-fertilizer/riceland 1996-98
(N/ha/year)bd

Rice yield (rainfed or irrigated)
(t/ha)be

China

29.5

265

255

6.3

DPR Korea

?0.4

?80

?

?3.8

Korea Rep.

1.1

475

355

6.8

Cambodia

0.3

3

6

1.8

Indonesia

?7.0

85

180

4.3

Lao PDR

0.1

6

6

2.9

Malaysia

0.5

175

165

2.9

Myanmar

1.0

16

30

3.2

Philippines

2.1

75

90

3.0

Thailand

0.7

85

85

2.3

Viet Nam

?4.0

250

180

4.1

Bangladesh

?2.6

145

95

3.1

India

?20.5

100

135

2.9

Iran

?0.5

55

170

4.2

Nepal

0.4

30

20

2.5

Pakistan

2.4

120

120

2.9

Sri Lanka

?0.6

120

130

3.2

a Regional groups: Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia.

b? indicates doubtful or not reported.

c Fertilizer per ha of agricultural land relates to all crops (food and industrial) and includes N, P2O5, and K2O, and is indicative for 1996-99.

d Fertilizer per ha of rice (whether 1, 2 or 3 crops per year) is adapted from FAO (2000a).

e Rice yield (aggregate for irrigated and rainfed crops) is indicative for 1997-2000.

Note: Several statistics pre-date the 1997-99 economic crises in Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia; double-cropped irrigated riceland is generally counted twice, and data for fully and for partially irrigated ricelands are not distinguished; values here are estimated on the basis of IRRI (1997).

Source: FAO, 2000b, 2001a; IRRI, 1997.

Non-agricultural uses of water are destined to demand an ever greater share of the diverted water supply. Many rice-growing countries will therefore need to invest substantially in water-resource development (including increased impoundment of high-intensity monsoon rainfall and run-off) if they are to avoid water constraints on their economies and rice production. Of Asia’s total harvested rice area, the irrigated sector constitutes about 56 percent, generating more than 75 percent of rice production.

Current and future yields of irrigated rice are substantially higher than non-irrigated rice yields. Moreover, irrigated production is more stable on a year-to-year basis than rainfed production, with a corresponding greater benefit for food security. It is, therefore, irrigated rice systems which will contribute most of the increased food production required to ensure national food security. The irrigation facilities for such systems usually comprise a river-diversion structure that facilitates the gravity-induced water flow along lined or unlined canals to smallholders’ bunded fields. In some ecozones there is increasing use of powered lifting of river water and groundwater, via deep or shallow tubewells, to service a large fraction of the irrigated rice area: about half in China and India, and about five-sixths in Bangladesh (FAO, 2000c). There is concern, however, that excessive extraction of groundwater in some ecozones (e.g. northwest India and China) is lowering groundwater levels to such an extent (1.3 m/year) that pumping costs have increased considerably.

Despite the food security benefits from irrigated production, governments and civil societies are turning to non-irrigated lands with the aim of obtaining returns in terms of enhanced livelihood, production and national wealth, more sustainable resource management and lower poverty per unit investment. In such lands, relatively small amounts of supplementary water, derived from on-farm or community-scale impoundments and possibly augmented by electric or diesel-powered pumps enabling uphill water transport, can bring substantial increases in yield and productivity; likewise, pumped tubewells in non-irrigated areas with slowly receding groundwater.

Given the competing demands for water, increases in: efficiency of irrigation water distribution and allocation; field-level water productivity; economic efficiency of water use; and irrigation’s interactive contributions to fertilizer-use efficiency, are required for rice irrigation (ADB, 2001a; IFAD, 2001). Since water productivity quantifies the amount of produce generated per unit of water (including rainfall) in the farmer’s field, such productivity can be increased by various components of field-level management. Such components include: higher-yielding cultivars established at optimal planting date; increase in fertilizer application and efficiency; improvement in pest control; lessening of water applications for pre-season land preparation (perhaps with dry seeding); effective retention of rainwater; conjunctive use of sweet and brackish waters; and non-continuous soil submergence, maintaining soil saturation (rather than submerged conditions) after panicle initiation, or by intermittent submergence and drying (as promoted in China). The increase in water-use efficiency achieved by intermittent submergence and drying is due to: the smaller proportion of nonproductive tillers; the increase in root activity and in leaf area and mass per stem; and delayed leaf senescence. Intermittent irrigation can also lessen methane emission in rice fields. For the successful adoption by farmers of these procedures:

Thus, for water and irrigation resources on a national scale, there is awareness of the need for short- and long-term strategies and policies, including those concerning investment in water and irrigation systems. Rice irrigation systems 30 to 40 years old (of which there are many) need rehabilitation, and many also require modernization to improve system management and thereby increase the efficiency of irrigation water distribution and allocation. For systems requiring rehabilitation (including restoration to the original state), the relatively small cost of modernization can bring substantial economic returns, even when returns to the original structural investment were low.

Such modernization involves numerous undertakings (FAO, 1997 and 1999a); it is a “transformation” process of technical and managerial upgrading and of associated institutional reforms that creates a system superior to that originally constructed. It is likely to incorporate corrections and improvements to the original design, particularly in relation to drainage and operational practicalities, and to have flexibility to respond to clients’ needs, present and future. The process is expected to engender in system managers a sense of service and accountability to the clients. In turn, the clients must change their agricultural practices and the procedures of irrigation-costs recovery accordingly, for which appropriate training and technical support are required.

The World Bank cautions that modernization will be ineffective unless accompanied by: accountability; strengthened system management; and the incentive of allocating water-use revenues to system maintenance (Guerra et al., 1998). Some irrigation systems (e.g. in parts of India and Pakistan) were conceived and designed to satisfy only part of the rice season’s water requirement. They are essentially “protective systems” providing, particularly in years of water shortage, an equitable distribution of the available water (FAO, 1997). Such systems do not necessarily facilitate the adoption of the above-mentioned water-saving procedures, except perhaps where they can be augmented by water supplied through farmer-owned tubewells.

Irrigation-user groups will increasingly operate and maintain their irrigation facilities themselves (as in irrigation-management transfer); alternatively, they will help operate the facilities in partnership with irrigation-system managers (participatory irrigation management). By either route, user groups need procedures to ensure equity among water users. Experience in Nepal and elsewhere shows that irrigation-user groups appreciate achieving such equity through improved system-level water control and operations (including water recirculation). When such operational modifications take place, the adoption of efficient field-level water management practices is likely to follow. In the longer term, equity among water users might best be set within realistic and equitable regimes of water pricing, water markets and trading, and with the adoption of farmer-directed water-saving incentives (Facon, 2002). However, FAO (quoting a World Bank/FAO/IPTRID review) cautions that irrigation-user groups are effective only when endowed with substantive power (FAO, 2000c).

Where possible and when appropriate, the transfer of irrigation management responsibility to an irrigation-user group may be accompanied by a structural and operational review of the system design and standards, configuration and operational transfer. This review would also determine whether the system requires only modest rehabilitation, or whether substantial rehabilitation (with or without modernization) is necessary prior to transfer and essential training.

Soil health and Integrated Plant Nutrition

Soils for submerged rice culture have an enviable record of 5 000 years of sustained usage. Only recently, in historic terms, and as a result of irrigation-facilitated rice-rice cropping, have previously productive rice soils come under pressures leading to degradation - physically, chemically or microbiologically. Appropriate integrated nutrient management in rice-based sequences and systems must therefore: provide or replenish the nutrients removed by the crops; increase the soil biomass; improve “soil health”; and facilitate adoption of high-yielding crop cultivars (FAO, 2000a). Table 3 lists the annual rate of mineral fertilizer applications for all crops (food and industrial) in 1996-99 (FAO, 2000b and 2001a), together with estimates for the application of nitrogen to rice, regardless of whether to one, two or three rice crops per year. These totals relate to manufactured or processed fertilizers only; nutrients from composts and manures would give higher numbers.

The NPK aggregate (mineral) application rate exceeds 200 kg/ha/year (not per crop) of nutrients in China, Republic of Korea and Viet Nam; these rates are sufficiently high to create risk of adverse environmental impacts. Moreover, previous national-scale analysis of rice cultivation in Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and Pakistan (Woodhead et al., 1994) revealed the marked decrease in fertilizer responsiveness (measured as kg of rice grain per kg of fertilizer nutrients); indeed, national average applications increased from 5 to 80 kg/ha/year of nutrients between 1965 and 1987. However, for individual fields, long-term experiments indicate that the incremental yield response to increased fertilizer application declined only slightly (if at all) over 15 years.

Current fertilizer-application rate (Table 3) is 40 kg/ha/year or less in Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Nepal. For India, Singh et al. (2002) determined that in 1991/92 irrigated land for all crops received about 110 kg/ha/year, irrespective of farm size (whether < 1.0 ha, intermediate, or > 4.0 ha), whereas non-irrigated land received about 40 kg/ha/year on the smallest farms, but only 25 kg/ha/year on the largest ones. In all countries, fertilizer applications in flood-prone areas, swamplands, uplands and less favourable rainfed lowlands are less than these national averages; however, they may be increasing in some ecozones (e.g. eastern India) (IRRI-IFAD, 2000). The high rates of livestock production growth are indicative of the general increase in livestock populations and their manure supplies. However, in rice-based farms, manure is more likely to be applied to vegetables and horticultural crops than to rice.

Annual nitrogen fertilizer applications per hectare of rice (with some imprecision because of uncertainty of rice area in multiple-rice-cropping regions) are comparable to the annual NPK application per hectare in most of the listed countries. This N rate exceeds 160 kg/ha per year (not crop season) in China, Indonesia, Iran, Republic of Korea, Malaysia and Viet Nam. It is 30 kg/ha or less in Cambodia, Lao Peole’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Nepal: this low rate of N fertilization is to some extent reflected in these countries’low rice yields (indicative for 1997-2000, and aggregated for rainfed and irrigated rice) (Table 3).

For all rice-system crops, whether lowland or upland, environmental and economic considerations dictate that there must in future be: an increase in fertilizer-use efficiency; an appropriate balance of NPK supplies (indigenous and applied); and a decrease in nutrient losses. For potassium, in particular, there is evidence of rapid depletion in intensive rice systems (Dobermann et al., 1996a); appropriately applied potassium can bring economic benefits. Since the onset of the green revolution, there has been a progressive development of micronutrient deficiencies in intensively cropped Asian soils, in particular with regard to: zinc; zinc and boron; zinc, boron, iron and manganese; and currently zinc, boron, iron, manganese and sulphur.

Throughout the Asian rice systems, vigorous programmes of strategic and applied research and extension have explored the processes of submerged-soil chemistry and microbiology, quantifying fertilizer-use efficiency in agronomic and economic terms. Well-founded recommendations have subsequently been made for on-farm practices and government policies appropriate to these submerged-soil regimes. Initially, these research and extension programmes determined, usually for irrigated rice, the nutrient efficiency and yield response for individual mineral-nutrient formulations, for individual plant- and animal-derived materials and residues, and for biochemically fixed nitrogen, determining also the influence of the method and timing of application, the plant population density and geometry, and the rice cultivar (a critical factor). Programmes of integrated plant nutrition management have sought to identify and exploit, particularly for nitrogen, beneficial combinations of these various nutrient materials and management procedures and also of rice and non-rice sequence interactions. More recently, procedures of integrated crop management are attempting to assist farmers to combine the procedures of integrated plant nutrition management with those of integrated insect pest management and with best practices of land, water, weed and disease management. Thus, for better-endowed ecozones and extension services, IRRI makes available on the Internet an on-farm decision-support system for rice; this system includes land, water and pest management, in addition to nutrient management (IRRI, 2001a).

Programmes are increasingly addressing the more complex issues of nutrient management for non-irrigated rice systems and sequences, whether favourably rainfed lowland or flood-prone. For upland rice, fertilizer applications are usually minimal. Effective N management is best achieved through the “good-land-husbandry” procedures of sustainable agricultural resource management (SARM), featuring N-fixing legumes in agroforestry systems. Land-levelling and the use of leaf colour charts in the field are already proving highly successful in enhancing rice yields. For example, in Cambodia, land-levelling has resulted in a 28 percent increase in rice yields with recommended fertilizer levels and a 20 percent reduction in total water requirements for crop production. With the increasing use of simple devices (e.g. some 15 000 LCCs [Leaf Colour Charts] distributed to Filipino farmers and some 75 000 to be distributed in Indonesia by IRRI), nitrogen-use efficiency is bound to be considerably enhanced (Cantrell, 2000).

There is a general need in agriculture and the rural economies to identify and phase out those subsidies that encourage and reward environmental degradation and resource misuse: the “perverse and distortionary incentives” (ADB, 2001a; IFAD, 2001; World Bank, 2001). Ensuring that ricelands do deploy environment-friendly and food-productive procedures will require substantial efforts and resources from various national and international stakeholders. Appropriate policies will be required with attendant regulations and enforcement thereof. The most prominent of these environment-damaging subsidies are those for fertilizer, water, electricity, credit and livestock-feed concentrates.

Greenhouse gas emissions

With regard to agriculture’s various gaseous emissions into the global atmospheric environment, it is suggested that agriculture should focus on reducing nitrogen emissions - forecast to have a greater impact on the global climate than carbon emissions (FAO, 2000a).

Agriculture is also a prominent source of ammonia, contributing to acid rain and hence to tree damage, as well as being a source of the greenhouse gases, methane and nitrous oxide (FAO, 2000a). Of the annual anthropogenic atmospheric inputs, agriculture (of which rice accounts for a substantial proportion) contributes about 80 percent of nitrous oxide and some 40 percent of methane. In the rice-based crop sequences, both the rice and the non-rice crops may, through inappropriate fertilization, contribute to those pollution processes.

Rice-system nutrients management thus has implications for greenhouse gas emissions and for related environmental concerns. Thus, in most irrigated rice fields, the proportion of applied N (usually urea N) taken up by the crop is less than 50 percent, despite the fact that there are farmer-appropriate techniques capable of substantially increasing this proportion. The unused portion of the applied urea N enters the aquatic and atmospheric environments. Moreover, for medium-production irrigated-rice enterprises, economic analysis indicates that the 1996-98 cost of purchase and application (to rice) of fertilizer nitrogen (the least costly and therefore most used fertilizer element) was typically between 15 and 20 percent of total production costs, and only 5 to 7 percent of produce value. These values suggest that there is little on-farm economic incentive towards efficiency. In the medium term, there may be pressures to impose environmental pricing on N materials.

Additionally, livestock, including rice-system livestock, will make an important contribution to the increases (2002-2030) in anthropogenic emissions of methane, nitrous oxide and ammonia. Significantly, animal manure N (with some applied to ricelands) is prone to substantial losses, particularly in East Asia: Steinfeld et al. (1997) report that about one-half of the N excreted by poultry and pigs is lost prior to land application and mostly to the atmosphere.

Methane emissions from global agriculture are forecast to double during 2002-2030 (FAO, 2000a), mainly due to livestock farming; in East and South Asia emissions are expected to increase from 21 to 49 Mt/year. The increase in rice crop methane emissions is expected to be lower, due to the development and deployment of rice cultivars that internally transmit to the atmosphere lesser quantities of soil-generated methane, as well as to the adoption of more appropriate water management practices.

Global agricultural nitrous-oxide emissions are forecast to increase 1.5 times during 2002-2030. The increase in rice crop emissions will be notably less, however, because of the expected stabilization of the rice area and the expected development and adoption of environment-friendly procedures of N fertilizer management. Such procedures are also expected to lessen the release to the atmosphere of ammonia when urea fertilizer is broadcast into rice-field submergence water.

These environment-friendly procedures recognize that rice N supply should match rice N demand. Moreover, such matching can be achieved in irrigated and in favourably rainfed ecozones by broadcasting urea into the field water, or by incorporating it into temporarily drained soil, when broadcasting is guided by regular monitoring of plant-tiller number or of rice-leaf colour. IRRI reports that 35 000 pieces of low-cost LCC were distributed to Asian rice farmers during 1997-99 (IRRI, 2001a). Similarly, for “mixed” crop-livestock systems, LEAD (1999) provides online a “decision-support toolbox” for environment-friendly management of livestock waste.

Biodiversity

The plant and animal biodiversity of ricelands is greatly determined by human activity. For rice, the irrigated ecozones, in particular, have in the past 40 years become populated by relatively few high-yielding cultivars. However, global variability in rice germplasm is substantial; as the primary centre of rice diversity, tropical Asia contains a multiplicity of ecological, agricultural and socio-economic settings, and has supported rice production for five millennia. However, because of accelerated deforestation and human intervention in the management of natural habitats (e.g. draining of marshlands), many previously non-cultivated habitats are losing rice germplasm variability.

More encouragingly, in the non-irrigated ricelands, indigenous seed management skills help maintain the biodiversity represented by the less widely grown rice cultivars. In the rainfed parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plains, two, five and sometimes as many as ten, different rice varieties (traditional and modern) may be grown within an individual farm (IRRI-IFAD, 2000). Procedures may be found, perhaps in association with the FAO programme entity, “Alternative crops and cultivars”, to fund endeavours in management of biodiversity and its constituent seeds.

However, for the sake of both the cultivated ricelands and the global rice heritage, it is vital that the world’s rice germplasm be conserved, studied and utilized. It is from the germplasm that agriculturally useful genes can be identified and incorporated into the rice cultivars of the future. It is thus encouraging that such conservation - in both laboratories and the ricelands, and of traditional and modern cultivars as well as wild relatives - is ongoing and appreciated and supported at national and international level. The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture has been signed by nearly 60 countries.

However, additional efforts are needed, in particular to preserve the remaining wild rice habitats and enable the dynamic on-farm conservation of traditional cultivars (facilitated by strengthening farmers’ rights). Additional support is needed to collect, preserve, evaluate, document and share information and materials. The understanding of the diversity and usefulness of these materials shall increasingly be assisted by current developments in molecular biology and genomics. Additionally, synteny among the genomes of rice and other cereals may mean that the diversity can also be used to the advantage of other cultivated cereals.

Eco-regional aspects

Rice systems are usefully characterized in terms of their water regime, whether irrigated, rainfed lowland, rainfed flood-prone or swampland, or rainfed upland. Crucially (for the marginal production zones and their inhabitants and for the prospective interventions to assist them), the extensive South Asian and Southeast Asian rainfed marginal regimes are analysed and delineated in terms of subcategories for which the constraints and vulnerability can be specified, e.g. “drought-and-submergence-prone” and “water-depth class”. Among rice-growing countries, both hunger and poverty are greatest in countries which depend on rainfed (non-irrigated) rice systems for much of their food production.

Table 4 quantifies the harvest areas for each of the four major categories of water regime (with the double-cropped area counted twice and all entries rounded to the nearest 1 Mha). Additionally, there are maps (Huke and Huke, 1982; Huke, 1996) delineating these major categories for the whole of Asia. Moreover, in the last decade and with the aid of within-country geographic information systems and personnel, detailed analysis and mappings at district and provincial level have been accomplished for the subcategories of water regime.

TABLE 4
Harvested area (Mha at 1991) for rice systems of various rice-phase water regimes

Region

Irrigated

Rainfed lowland

Floodprone/
swampland

Rainfed upland

Total

Asia

75

34

12

12

133

East Asia

50

16

4

5

75

East Asia (excl. China)

19

14

4

4

41

South Asia

25

18

8

7

58

South Asia (excl. India)

5

5

3

1

14

Note: FAO (2000e) suggests a 1997 Asian-total rice-harvest area of 135 Mha.
Source: IRRI, 1997 (adapted).

Table 4 shows the dominance, in terms of rice area, of China in East Asia (including Southeast Asia), and of India in South Asia. Correspondingly, in 1996-99, these two countries together produced about 60 percent of all Asian rice (FAO, 2000b). Asia’s harvested rice area totals about 133 Mha; although the irrigated sector constitutes only 56 percent of this total area, it generates more than 75 percent of total rice production.

Nonetheless, high priority is now accorded to rainfed lowlands and to some deep-water areas by governments and civil societies in many of those countries in which the rainfed areas comprise an appreciable proportion of the total rice area. Of the major rice-producing countries, rainfed lowland and deep-water rice is proportionately extensive in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines and Viet Nam.

Within the low-lying and hitherto impoverished deep-water areas of western Bangladesh and eastern India, the last decade has seen the successful adoption of sequences allowing the deployment of appropriately selected boro rice cultivars and crop management procedures (including “ratoon” procedures) which take advantage of the slowly receding post-monsoon water. This recession occurs during the cooler months with a cloudless sky, when air temperature and crop respiration and pest pressures are low, solar irradiance and photosynthesis high, and yields therefore also high.

INITIATE APPROPRIATE POLICIES

Increased investment in rice systems, rice research and rice technologies development

As emphasized at the World Food Summit: five years later (June 2002), progress towards the various 2015 targets for halving rural undernourishment and poverty is worryingly behind schedule. Possible causes include a marked decline in global assistance (including Development Bank assistance) to all components of developing world agriculture during the decade 1987/89-1997/99. In South Asia, this decline has been compounded by the rate of government expenditure per agricultural worker, which is extremely low (below sub-Saharan Africa) and decreasing.

This decline has caused anxiety among the international development banks. ADB (2001b) reports that its loans to support the development of agriculture and natural resources and expressed as a proportion of all loans peaked in the 1980s at 34 percent; they then declined to 9 percent in 1997-99, with a slight recovery to 10 percent in 2000. ADB (2001c) describes the decline as “alarming”. Similarly, the World Bank (2001) describes the decline in lending for agriculture (from 18% to 12% to 9% of total lending in 1990, 1995 and 1999, respectively) as “precipitous”. IFAD (2001) calculates that the absolute value of global aid to agriculture fell by two-thirds during 1987-1998. There has been a corresponding decline in support to agricultural research and agricultural technology development, including rice research and rice technology development - despite the fact that objective analysis has shown that of the interventions that have helped lessen rural poverty, the two most effective in India have been the construction of roads and the sponsoring of agricultural research and development (Singh, 2001a). For Bangladesh (ADB, 2000a), the greatest impact on poverty was made by strengthening human capital, followed by investments in physical infrastructure (notably roads and electricity) and agrotechnological research and extension.

National and international development and financial support systems, including the World Bank and regional development banks, such as ADB, must reverse the decline in support to agriculture as a whole and to national and international rice research and rice technologies development. Financial and technical assistance should be provided on a priority basis to establish and effectively operate rice system checks to bridge yield and income gaps. Successful newer paradigms of development must include multi-financing sources, including private, cooperative and non-governmental organizations, although the state should continue to play a major strategic, innovative and enabling role. Deep-rooted reforms are needed for investments in land, water and other natural resource development processes towards hunger and poverty reduction (Alagh, 2002).

Rice markets, prices, economics, globalization and employment

Economically, rice is important to farmers, processors, market-makers, consumers and governments. For governments and their market interventions, the reconciliation of the conflicting interests of poor farmers and poor consumers is long-enduring and likely to be long-continuing. Similarly, governments of many rice-growing countries consider that “a large degree of food self-sufficiency, as distinct from food self-reliance, is desirable to ensure food security” (FAO, 1998a).

Buffer stocks are maintained for consumers, and very poor families (rural and urban) may receive rice at subsidized prices. For the farmers, many of whom are smallholders generating quite small marketable surpluses, market intervention policies involve some measure of price support. Such policies may include government protection against harvest-season imports and international rice price volatility (despite the fact that the proportion of rice traded internationally is only 6 percent of total production, which is much less than for wheat and coarse grains). Consequently, in most rice-growing countries rice production has increased progressively in recent decades (Table 1).

For the market-makers, governments have generally encouraged private trading, though with appropriate controls. However, there has recently been a substantial and global decline in within-country rice prices. This decline has caused concern among rice farmers and market-makers, and among importers and exporters and their governments (which have understandably adopted protective measures).

Rice-production economics at farm level is much determined by rice yield and by the efficiency with which resources and finances are used to generate such yield. Given the continuing constraints to increases in farmgate rice prices, it is necessary to decrease the costs of rice production, and increase the efficiency of the use of resources; rice can thus remain a market-competitive product and farm-family incomes may be raised.

Rice production systems and rice economies at national level have evolved together with Asian civilization. Rice systems can form a basis for sustainable agriculture and rural development. Containment of costs must be achieved through more efficient use of resources and by increased system diversity and value-adding enterprise and marketing. There is a corresponding need for more equitable access to production resources and employment opportunities, which must be achieved with minimal adverse impacts on other sectors of society and the economy.

The World Trade Organization’s General System of Preferences (GSP) establishes that developed countries must provide non-reciprocal preferences to developing countries; nevertheless, the global rice trade is characterized by formidable tariffs set by many developed countries. Indeed, while the world-average tariff for non-agricultural products is 4 percent, for agricultural products it is 40 percent. FAO (2000e) reports that OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries operated tariffs in 1995 on developing countries’rice, wheat and maize at rates of 89, 94 and 90 percent. However, the EU has announced the abolition by 2009 of its tariff on rice from developing countries.

IFPRI (1998) calculates that for every US$1.0 increase in farm output (including rice farm output) in the developing world, there is an additional US$0.73 of imports (US$0.17 of which are agricultural imports) predominantly from developed countries. The increase in farm output results in an increase in rural employment (in particular for women) and helps lessen poverty. It is, therefore, in the economic interests of developed countries and of developing rice-growing countries to facilitate jointly the economic development of rice production systems.

In relation to the interaction between agricultural production, rural employment and income generation, studies of India and Malaysia (FAO, 1998b) and of Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Thailand (ADB, 2001c) demonstrate that a 1.0 percent increase in agricultural output value (including rice output value) results in a 0.5-1.0 percent increase in the outputs of the associated non-farm sector.

These increased activities in the on-farm (rice-production) and non-farm (value-adding) sectors have corresponding positive implications for the preservation of existing rural employment and for the creation of new employment. For new employment, it is highly relevant to national economies that the “cost of a rural workplace is substantially less than the cost of an urban workplace” (FAO, 2000e).

Human resources strengthening, communications and cooperation

In all rice-growing countries, pro-active skills and vocational training are a worthwhile national investment, preparing current and future farmers (men and women) for the transformed rice-system agriculture of 2010-2020 and 2020-2030 (IFAD, 2001; FAO, 1999b). Skills are required in various areas:

However, few rice farmers have formal education beyond primary level, and many have not even completed primary schooling. They do, however, have indigenous knowledge of agricultural practices and economics. For these farmers, appropriate training may be best provided through agricultural extension programmes, perhaps adopting the FAO model of “farmer field schools”, with emphasis on “training of trainers” and “lead farmers”. Such procedures have had notable success in training women farmers in seed collection and management. The Rice-Wheat Consortium (2000) reports excellent results in Bangladesh for a well-prepared “whole-family training” programme which dealt with the practical aspects of wheat management within rice-wheat-system farming; this particular training methodology is designed to transmit to family-run farm enterprises the enthusiasm, dynamism and new knowledge of the young, and the wisdom and experience of their elders.

But different policies and strategies are needed for the farmers of the future who already receive the benefit (not available to their forebears) of a formal education. Some of the farmers of the future may wish to become specialists in a particular crop or livestock commodity. The development and adaptation of the field school model must take advantage of their increased literacy, numeracy and computer competence. Such development and adaptation should assist rice farmers, associated entrepreneurs, future extension officers and adaptive researchers to acquire the agricultural and entrepreneurial expertise needed so that they may share in the increases in national wealth that shall derive from the general expansion of Asian economies (ADB, 2001b).

Policies should aim to strengthen course materials and provide skilled extensionists (female and male) to facilitate technical training and adult education for smallholder families, adapting, where appropriate, family training procedures in order to: strengthen the technical knowledge of women family members; access agronomic and socio-economic expertise; and engage the interest and enthusiasm, and acquire the up-to-date knowledge of older children. Policies are required to adapt and adopt existing training modules (including NGO-prepared modules) of best practices, success cases and decision-support systems for rice and non-rice crops, livestock and rice-field fish, of sustainable resource and common properties management, and of value-adding and post-harvest technologies and enterprise management. Policies and training are needed to develop skills (technical, administrative, financial and within existing seed regulatory regimes) so that rural women can expand and direct community-based seed management enterprises.

Rice community adult education could include multi-agency curricula addressing diverse rural topics and featuring aspects of: financial management (in enterprises and households); nutrition, health, hygiene and sanitation; and the formation and operation of groups, associations and cooperatives. Women-specific sessions should emphasize aspects of maternity care and of mother-and-child micronutrition so as to enhance the nutritional use of available food and lessen the incidence of low-body-mass females, and so as to describe and encourage home garden contributions to family nutrition.

Policies and investments could also enable multi-agency support for rural information and knowledge-sharing to and from: farm families; extensionists, researchers and NGOs; microfinance and agricultural-inputs suppliers; and non-agricultural rural entities. Such information-sharing would pass through various channels: farmer field schools; family seminars; workshops; monitoring tours; brochures; reports; television and radio; and Internet and telephone facilities for access to market information.

Many excellent extension and training materials are currently under-used by their intended practitioners, as they are only available in English. However, for almost all rice-growing ecozones there are now computer software packages which can translate these English language materials into the local language with relatively little effort and cost. Avigorous and selective programme of translations and copublication would constitute a very cost-effective investment by governments or donors.

SUMMARYAND CONCLUSIONS

There are indeed many challenges and many opportunities wherewith to sustain and enhance rice production in Asia and the Pacific region. Such increased production and the associated income generation can also improve livelihoods, particularly for the poorest of the poor and for very hungry children.

The sustained and enhanced productivity and production of Asian rice and riceland is fundamental to the world’s food security and its politico-economic stability. The science-led rice revolution which triggered the green revolution in the 1960s led to a significant drop in the level of hunger and poverty in rice-growing Asia. The effort must be sustained and duly adjusted according to new challenges and opportunities in order to meet the 2015 rice production targets and achieve the World Food Summit goal of halving the number of malnourished persons by 2015. In more recent years, although rice production has fallen slightly (due mostly to the sharp decline in rice prices), rice yields must be steadily improved in order to achieve the production target. Per caput consumption of rice in most countries is expected to stabilize at the current level, or even to decline slightly, particularly in a large country like China. Furthermore, the region’s population growth has considerably decelerated. Yet, the Asian ricelands must considerably increase rice production, reaching 540, 665 and 765 Mt per year in 1996, 2015 and 2030, respectively; average rice yield must increase from 3.5 to 4.6 t/ha in the period from 1996 to 2030.

A four-pronged attack is needed to achieve the goal:

Fortunately, there are numerous technological, social, economic, institutional and infrastructural opportunities for addressing the various challenges and constraints to increased sustainability and productivity. The mobilization of world opinion, led by the World Food Summit in June 2002, leads to optimism for increased national and international resources and political commitment to combat hunger and poverty - from which rice-based livelihoods can only benefit.

FAO, in particular RAP, in partnership with national and international systems and institutions concerned, is well positioned to help initiate and support necessary interventions to sustain and enhance Asian and global rice production. It can contribute technical, social, economic and institutional expertise, experience and technical assistance to the various required endeavours and programmes.

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