Beijing, China, 17 - 21 May 2004


Table of contents


1. Rice (Oryza sativa) is grown in 26 of the 43 member countries in Asia and the Pacific - occupying one fifth of the Region’s arable and permanent crop land. The rice farming system gives part time employment to some 300 million men, women and children. As a staple food, it provides a third of total dietary energy and protein for half the World’s population.

2. Within the Region, there is archaeological evidence of domesticated rice in the Republic of Korea 15 000 years ago. Through the millennia, environment-friendly cultivation of fertile lands with abundant water provided sustainable food secure, even affluent, livelihoods.

3. But population pressure leading to high cropping intensity, natural resource exploitation and pollution has caused a vicious cycle of poverty and environmental degradation in a large part of the sector.

4. The deterioration of some rice lands may be exacerbated as the impending climate change unfolds. Meanwhile, high-cost rice producers are being challenged by the on-going agricultural trade liberalization.

5. Affluence or poverty prevails according to the land and water endowments and infrastructure and support services available. Inequalities are intensifying. Employment and income generation prospects are limited for scores of millions of deprived rice-growing households. As a staple food and livelihood system, rice therefore features prominently in the sustainable agriculture and rural development (SARD) scenario in Asia. For this reason, the Fifty-seventh Session of the United Nations General Assembly declared 2004 as the International Year of Rice (IYR) with the theme Rice is Life and invited FAO to facilitate its implementation.

6. Given the heightening agro-ecological diversity and deepening income rifts in the sector, rice policy has reached a crossroads. Should developing countries continue on the traditional path of indiscriminate production expansion in pursuance of food security at high cost? Or should they turn to restructuring the rice sector for sustainable cost-efficient production? Scarcity of development resources is pervasive. The old way may mean superficial and ineffective assistance to marginal rice farmers thereby perpetuating a poverty-stricken way of life. The alternative route could, in the short-term, exacerbate food insecurity among vulnerable constituents who will be the first to suffer in any restructuring process.

7. Therefore quick comprehensive reallocation of resources in the rice sector for comparative and competitive advantage though desirable, may not be feasible owing to welfare and cost considerations. Most developing countries are likely to strike a middle path. They will try to maximize production to leverage the sector’s contribution to SARD for near-term poverty alleviation. And simultaneously lay the foundations for longer-term restructuring of the sector. The specific formula will depend on a country’s demographic, food security and political dynamics. Indeed there are indications that several countries are moving in this direction.

8. To support policy-making, this paper (i) highlights mega trends in the rice economy; (ii) identifies critical developments in rice-based livelihood systems; and (iii) suggests ways and means to leverage the rice sector’s contribution to SARD (Rice-SARD) and initiate the groundwork for restructuring. By retracing four decades of rice development, it will try to extract lessons learnt and help countries take the right road.

9. The paper is about rice livelihood systems in the Region. At this mega analytical level, issues and findings will be for the whole rice sector; cutting across countries, agro-ecological zones (AEZ) and water regimes. In other words, discussions will be confined to elements of macro policy that countries might consider. The orientation of this paper however, will be towards the rainfed rice-based livelihood system as it is where most SARD problems arise.


10. Asia and the Pacific accounts for 91 percent of the World’s paddy output. The remaining nine percent is shared about equally among Africa, South America and the Rest-of-the-World. Such Regional dominance means that Asian trends will have overwhelming impact on the future World scenario.

11. On the supply side, the Region produced an average of 538 million tons of paddy in the triennium 2000-02. In the last 40 years, production grew faster than population i.e. 2.4 percent versus 1.9 percent per annum respectively giving a per caput gain of 0.5 percent. But production growth rates slowed steadily through the decades from 2.9 percent per annum in the sixties down to 1.3 percent in the nineties.

12. About 80 percent of the production gains came from yield increases rather than area expansion. Regional yield improvement averaged 2.0 percent per annum over 40 years to reach a triennial average of 4.0 tons per ha in 2000/02. Yield gains were also faster in the earlier decades--decelerating from 1.9 and 2.3 percent per annum in the sixties and seventies respectively to 1.5 and 1.0 percent in the subsequent decades.

13. In contrast, Regional rice harvested area expansion averaged only 0.4 percent per year in the last 40 years to reach 135 million ha in 2000/02. Following the spurt of double-cropping arising from irrigation expansion and the spread of short-term high-yielding varieties (HYV) in the sixties and early seventies, harvested-area gains were marginal in the subsequent decades. Annual growth rates fell from 1.0 percent in the sixties to 0.3 percent in the nineties.

14. Regarding rice trade, Asia-Pacific milled rice imports grew erratically at 1.6 percent per annum over the last 40 years to 11.7 million tons in 1999/2001. The most rapid growth took place in the nineties especially in the second half of the decade owing to prolonged drought in importing countries, trade liberalization and falling prices.

15. Regional exports grew at a faster rate of 3.6 percent per annum over four decades to reach an average of 18 million tons in 1999/2001. An export surge also occurred in the nineties as traditional exporters including China, Thailand, Pakistan and Myanmar increased shipments; new exporters such as Viet Nam and India came on the export scene strongly; and rice food-aid shipments from Japan and the Republic of Korea rose significantly. The Regional export growth rate was an explosive 7.3 percent per annum in this decade.

16. Consequently, Asia-Pacific shifted from traditional self-sufficiency (with occasional surpluses) to net export status in 1976. The Region’s net exports, growing erratically, have nearly doubled from 3.6 to 6.5 million tons in the decade ending 1999/2001.

17. Meanwhile nominal rice prices have declined significantly. In the 12 years ending 2000/03, the average annual price of the popular Thai 100 percent second grade (f.o.b. Bangkok) fell steadily at the rate of 3.5 percent per year to US$192 per ton. The price erosion occurred mainly in the latter half of the nineties coinciding with the Regional export surge in the same period. Fierce competition especially for the medium to lower grades accounted for the poor prices prompting five Regional exporting countries to establish a caucus to try to reduce price-undercutting. The intensifying competition among traditional, occasional and new exporters may set a ceiling on prices in the foreseeable future.

18. On the demand side, 90 percent of average Regional aggregate domestic supply of 346 million tons in 1999/2001 went to direct food consumption, 2.0 percent to feed, 1.0 percent to food manufacture and the balance to seed and waste.

19. Regional Rice consumption as food was ahead of population; growing at 2.4 percent per year against 1.9 percent respectively in the past 40 years giving an annual per caput gain of half a percent. Food consumption gains were faster in the earlier decades—falling from over 3.4 percent annual growth rate in the sixties to 1.1 percent in the nineties. This development might be attributed to the closing of per caput dietary energy supply gap and the diversification of diets. In the foreseeable future, price elasticity of demand for rice may be positive but small.

20. Starting from a low level, the use of rice in food manufacture (into transformed food groups like sugar, oil and alcoholic beverages) grew annually at 2.3 percent in four decades to 2.3 million tons. This is less than one percent of total supply. But not included in the above statistic is rice processed into prepared foods like noodles, confectionary, breakfast cereals, infant food, starch and others. There is potential for value addition in processing.

21. In the foreseeable future, FAO trend projections indicate that Asia-Pacific rice output would grow by 0.9 percent per annum to reach 398 million tons of milled rice equivalent in the period 1998-2010. The increase would derive almost entirely from yield growth rather than area expansion. But as in the previous four decades, the yield growth would continue to slow down giving a conservative forecast paddy yield of 4.3 tons per ha in 2010.

22. The Region’s medium-term utilization of rice has been projected to increase at a slightly slower pace than population expansion--specifically, 0.9 versus 1.1 percent annually in the current decade. At this rate, rice utilization primarily as food is expected to grow to 386 million tons in 2010.

23. Within this aggregate utilization trend, Regional per caput rice food consumption is expected to fall from 92 to 89.2 kg per person in the period 1998-2010. Worldwide, it will fall slightly from 59.9 to 59.1 kg per person. This reflects declining trends in East and South-east Asia; and increasing consumption in South Asia, the Near-east and the Rest-of-the-World.

24. The future of international rice trade is circumscribed by three factors: the thinness of the global rice market, diversity of consumer preferences and the critical role of rice in food security. To elaborate, international rice trade constitutes only about six percent of global output. The international market is also very much fragmented by variety with ordinary Indica rice accounting for 80 percent of trade flows; aromatic rice (Basmati, Jasmine) 10 percent; and other rice, 10 percent. Even within the majority Indica variety, the multiple cultural and social preferences and morphological diversity have precluded an international grading system. Furthermore, rice is central to food security and poverty alleviation. This has induced governments to enact policies to shield domestic markets from the international market thereby exacerbating international price volatility.

25. Meanwhile, implementation of the Uruguay Round Agreement (URA) saw generally high bound tariff rates; some deferred tariffication; cases of high in-quota tariffs; and continuing opaque and sometimes monopolistic state trading. In the area of domestic support, developed country cuts in price support have been offset by: direct income payments; production limiting compensations; and retirement, disaster and other grants. In short, there was a shift from amber to blue and green box payments without much reduction in production. What happens to international rice trade will depend to some extent on remedying the shortcomings of the URA.

26. Consequently, global rice trade has been projected to rise at a modest 1.5 percent per annum in the current decade to 29.3 million tons in 2010; much below the explosive growth of the nineties. Half of this volume is expected to be imported by the Region with Indonesia, China, Iran and Malaysia as major and growing buyers.

27. The Region’s export is expected to increase by 1.8 percent per annum to 22.9 million tons in 2010. This is a significant deceleration from the seven percent growth rate of the nineties. Asia and the Pacific will provide 80 percent of global exports with Thailand and Viet Nam expected to account for half the shipments.

28. Over the past two decades, the Region’s undernourished peoples fell from 32 percent to 16 percent of the aggregate population. But performance was spotty. Five out of the seven retrogressive countries registering increases in undernourishment were predominantly rice-eating countries. Also, a significant proportion of the Region’s undernourished live in the rice sector. The message here is: to meet the World Food Summit, Plan of Action (WFS POA) target of halving the number of hungry by 2015, development of rice-based livelihood systems should be prioritized.


29. For the constituents of the rice sector including farm owner-operators, landlords, tenants, shifting cultivators, landless labourers, traders, millers, consumers and others, there are strategic developments; both positive and negative. Beginning with the negative, there has been slow water-regime improvement. In the eighties and nineties, rice irrigation expansion was around one percent per annum. This dull irrigation growth rate is not expected to change noticeably. Water scarcity, the anti-big dam syndrome, unresolved water-sharing issue, resettlement conundrum and habitat concern will likely curtail irrigation expansion.

30. Consequently, rainfed lowland, upland, deep-water and tidal wetland rice, occupying 40 percent of the Region’s harvested area but accounting for only one-fifth of output, will continue to weigh down SARD. The fragility of these diverse rainfed agro-ecological zones as well as deprivation of resident communities makes change difficult.

31. Land degradation as wind and water erosion, mudslides, downstream silting, water-logging, coastal flooding, nutrient mining, pesticide pollution, soil acidification, alkalization, toxicity and salinization and others, continues unabated in irrigated as well as rainfed rice ecosystems. Bulk of the rice lands could be considered to be degraded in one way or another; and a large part of it is irrecoverable and should be taken out of rice production.

32. Agriculture including rice-based farming systems is a major source of environmental pollution in the forms of nitrate and phosphate in water; ammonia input to acid rain; and greenhouse gases of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. As a rough guide, agriculture accounted for 30 percent of man-made Green House Gas (GHG) emissions including 80 percent of the nitrous oxide and 40 percent of the methane annually. Decomposition under flooded rice fields, inappropriate fertilization, burning of forests, use of fossil fuel and animal solid, liquid and gaseous waste are responsible.

33. The Region is also disaster prone. In the 25 years ending 2000, there were 2 171 recorded natural disasters--an average of 87 disaster events affecting 120 million people per year. The rice growing areas in Asia suffered the most damage from the predominantly storm, flood and drought hazards. There is evidence that the incidence and impact of natural disasters have increased sharply since the late nineties. The consecutive years of widespread devastating drought in Central and South Asia during 1999-2001 is a strong case in point. It will be important to build resilience to natural disasters in rice-based farming systems.

34. The push for irrigation expansion to raise productivity has been hampered largely by water scarcity. It was estimated that in Asia, close to 90 percent of extracted fresh water is currently used in agriculture; and the rice take is three quarters of agriculture’s share. In the 35 years to 1990, water availability per caput declined by half in the Region and is expected to fall by another third by 2025. Also, water scarcity is being exacerbated by losses incurred by mismanagement and deterioration of existing irrigation facilities and inefficient water-use. The way forward seems to be to raise agricultural output per unit of water.

35. The Region’s water problems are also caused by uneven distribution of the resource in time and space. Much of the rain in rice-growing areas comes in the four to six month monsoon season. Heavy monsoon rains cause flooding in low-lying areas and erosion in the uplands. Between monsoons there is water scarcity and drought vulnerability. Also, rice lands in the Region stretch from areas with 300 mm to 3 500 mm rainfall. Drainage and flood control in irrigated as well as rainfed lowland and deepwater areas is thus as much of a problem as water scarcity.

36. Threatening the carrying capacity of fragile rice lands is climate change. Rising temperatures and sea levels are expected to bring about; inundation of coastal lands; irregular monsoons; erratic precipitation; more floods and droughts; sea water seepage into aquifers; soil salinization; increased heat stress to crops and livestock; higher evapotranspiration; and more pests and diseases among others. Countries should try to predict impacts and formulate mitigating strategies for vulnerable areas.

37. Rice holding size is getting smaller in the Region owing to subdivision for inheritance, sale, leasing and state redistribution. For example, census, survey and other data show that:

38. To the extent that they are worked more intensively and distributed more equitably, smaller rice farms are acceptable. But from a livelihood perspective, there is a minimum holding size below which the income generated cannot provide an adequate level of living. Governments may have to intervene simultaneously to consolidate rice holdings that are too small as well as to promote the sub-division of large ones to improve access to land.

39. Causing as much concern is the steady redistribution of the agricultural population by age and gender. Over the years, seasonal and permanent urban migration of young adult males has left the aged, women and children to work the farms. This development has two disadvantages. One, seasonal labour shortage has emerged as a problem for the larger farms and also where wages are rising. Two, feminization of agriculture has occurred in most developing countries; but without the necessary changes in women’s access to land, capital, education and supporting services.

40. Progress in arresting rice post-harvest losses has been slow. Many governments are even uncertain of the extent of the losses. FAO surveys indicated losses of 10 to 37 percent of yield depending on weather, infrastructure and practice. In ascending order of magnitude, harvesting, field handling, threshing, drying, storage and transport operations are where the losses occur.

41. Turning to the positive developments, rice-based cropping systems and sequences have become more diversified. Rice-fallow, rice-maize, rice-wheat and rice-rice systems used to predominate for reasons of risk-aversion and limited technology. Recently, other cropping sequences such as rice-sorghum, rice-pulses, rice-root-crop (potato), rice-oilseed, rice-groundnut, rice-vegetables and others have taken root. Within these cropping sequences, triple-cropping, inter-cropping, mixed cropping, relay cropping and multi-year crop sequencing have also emerged. Such initiatives in the area of on-farm diversification bode well for resiliency, balanced nutrition and resource sustainability. Indeed rapid change in this direction is already taking place especially in China, India and Viet Nam.

42. Diversification of crops has brought in its wake more opportunities for benefiting from synergies in crop-livestock and crop-fishery farming systems. In well-endowed rice areas, technological, managerial and organizational advances have allowed the development of highly profitable livestock, poultry, aquaculture and other enterprises using products and by-products of the cropping systems. Rice straw and bran for example, feature prominently in ruminant feeding in rice growing areas. These integrated crop-livestock-fish farming systems can lift employment and incomes and increase rice-ecosystem sustainability.

43. Today, pan-regional average all-rice yield is 4.0 tons per ha with irrigated rice at 5.0 tons, rainfed lowland rice at 2.5 tons, rainfed upland rice at 1.3 tons and deepwater rice at 1.6 tons. However, studies show that a considerable yield gap between the representative on-farm yield and the realistically attainable yield exists. Within countries, the top-decile yield was usually several times the lowest decile yield. There is also evidence to show that actual large-farm yields were much below realistically attainable yields. Thus appropriate yield gap analysis backed by comprehensive input and support service packages can close the yield gap. The Rice Check System of Australian Origin has been effective in this kind of analysis and is being introduced in developing countries. FAO has promoted its development in five Asian countries.

44. Rapid advances in biotechnology promise much in the way of lifting rice yield potential. There are some 20 species with a total of more than a thousand varieties in 111 countries to provide the diversified genetic material for improvement. Rice genomics and applications of techniques such as embryo rescue, anther culture, molecular marker-aided selection, DNA fingerprinting and transformation have increased possibilities, guided goal setting and sped processes. On-going programmes to redesign the rice plant and develop hybrid rice are likely to lift yield ceilings significantly from 10 to 12 tons per ha for irrigated rice and 5 to 6 tons for rainfed lowland rice soon. Countries should however make every effort to guard against the adverse effects of GMOs on human health and environment through appropriate risk assessment prior to their introduction.

45. New plant-type cultivars with drought and submergence tolerance, wide photoperiod sensitivity, pest and disease resistance, fertilizer-economy features, lodging resistance, increased photosynthetic efficiency and grain quality and other desirable characteristics will come on the scene rapidly. Examples of such emerging innovative technologies worth noting are the vitamin A-enhanced Golden Rice; the C4 rice (rather than the less efficient C3 rice in photosynthesis); the super rice with 15 tons per ha yield potential; and the inter-specific crossed Nerica rice for weed competition and low-input management systems. More immediately applicable is hybrid rice technology. It can yield up to 20 percent more than semi-dwarf in-breds in irrigated areas. Further progress in hybrid technology in China and its spread to other countries will raise Regional yield performance.

46. Increasing use of crop simulation modelling will accelerate development of location-specific farm management strategies. It allows research findings to be applied over a wide range of ecosystems and is especially useful in guiding breeding and yield-gap analysis in rice.

47. The three pillars of environment-friendly rice agronomy, namely integrated plant nutrient system (IPNS), integrated pest management (IPM) and integrated weed management (IWM) have matured. These management systems involve cultivar development, symbiotic and non-symbiotic biological processes, efficient input-use, minimum chemical application and environment-friendly practices to increase productivity and conserve the natural resource-base. Replacing hardware with software solutions, they are spreading from experimental station to the farmer and from accessible to remote rice lands. FAO’s Farmer Field School model has spearheaded the spread of the principle: producing more with less.

48. Demand for good quality rice has grown fast. The value addition to be found in increasing protein and vitamin A content, fragrance, taste, appearance, and safety is highly significant as are also the gains in higher whole-grain milling yield and quality preservation in storage. Specialty rice like Basmati and Jasmine for discriminating consumers, will have a growing market share.

49. But there were mixed developments on the institutional front. Some progress was seen in fostering participatory governance, farmer-support groups (NGOs and CSOs) and domestic trade liberalization and privatization. Increasingly, local government structures like the Panchayat Raj in India are being reinforced. NGOs and CSOs advocating farmers’ causes in regard to price support, environmental protection, access to genetic resources and others have become more visible. Furthermore, the thrust towards private sector participation in the rice trade has led to down-scaling of state trading and growth of rural entrepreneurship.

50. On the other hand, institutional infrastructure and support services are unevenly distributed, uncoordinated and mostly insubstantial. In particular, state budgetary and programme support on institutions for four essential services namely farmer organization, rural finance, land administration and natural resource conservation has been short.

51. As a result, marginal rice farmers are unorganized, unrepresented and lack capacity to mobilize resources for development. Their access to research, extension, information, marketing, credit, input supply and other support services is limited.

52. There is a dearth of capital for development of the small farm rice sector. Subsistence rice farmers have few assets and limited access to formal credit to escape the poverty trap. The cost of delivery of formal microcredit remains high owing to risks and uncertainties associated with distance, weak supporting services, aberrant weather and lack of collateral.

53. Access to land remains a major issue on the institutional scene. Past attempts at land reform especially in the redistribution of land did not have the desired impact. Owning or leasing plots will become more difficult as land prices rise. Meanwhile land administration has failed to keep up with the demands of the land market for timely survey, demarcation, registration, and titling in most developing countries. Tenancy regulation was superficial. Land-use planning has not been effective. Consequently agricultural land prices continue to be irrationally high.

54. Effective institutions and support services to conserve natural resources and protect the environment have yet to materialize in most developing countries. An institutional framework for community management of the environment is clearly needed. Scattered successes in community watershed, irrigation and forest management are still to be replicated country and region-wide. The groundwork in building awareness, mobilizing political commitment, establishing laws, rules and regulations and providing support services is only just starting.


55. A business-as-usual approach to rice sector development would, according to FAO trend projections, lead to lackluster growth. A more aggressive stance is warranted. This calls for comprehensive interventions in the four key inputs of SARD namely technology, management, institutions and human resources.

56. But governments need to make such interventions to leverage SARD and initiate restructuring within an enabling environment. This means that sufficient political commitment; participatory governance, freedom from civil unrest and war; macro-economic stability; and gender sensitivity should exist for the interventions to work.


57. The much needed technology upgrade may be enlarged in scope to cover the whole livelihood system rather than the rice crop alone. This means technologies to create employment, and incomes and reinforce natural resource sustainability take on added importance. The new orientation would involve boosting research and development (R&D) in overcoming the seven main constraints of Rice-SARD. These are: yield ceiling; water scarcity; pests, diseases and weeds; inefficient fertilizer-use; natural resource degradation and pollution; climate change; and employment-generating supplementary enterprises.

58. In the important area of employment generation, R&D may stress the search for new rice-based enterprises. Promising initiatives include among others, bio-fuel cropping; herbs, spices and medicinal plants; stall-fed livestock; aquaculture, apiculture and sericulture. Indeed, ways and means should be found for farmers to create employment, raise incomes and improve diets from the rich plant and aquatic biodiversity in rice ecosystems. The search may also cover waste management and renewable energy that might fit into rice-based livelihood systems.

59. For effective technology upgrade, it will be necessary to mobilize talent and resources by creating enabling environments, raising researcher incentives and forming domestic and international partnerships. Therefore within the framework of an extended international research network and revitalized national agricultural research systems (NARS), the Conference may wish to recommend that countries strengthen research and development on rice as a livelihood system rather than as a commodity system.

60. In doing so, countries could benefit by working with the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutes (APAARI)--an FAO sponsored TCDC network specially established to rejuvenate NARS. They should also reinforce collaboration with CGIAR and other international rice research agencies through consortiums and joint-ventures for cost-effective research.

61. Within FAO, the Conference may wish to recommend that the work of the International Rice Commission (IRC) in promoting TCDC in rice-based livelihood systems be accorded high priority.

Farm Management

62. Technology upgrade to raise total factor productivity and ecosystem sustainability is essential but not enough. Farm management improvement for income growth and farm asset building is also needed for SARD. This intervention would involve building management expertise and decision-support systems to improve resource mobilization, farming systems and practices, value-addition and marketing.

63. With farm management improvement as a critical input, FAO’s Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) operates in 17 Regional member countries mostly in the rice sector, and 89 countries world-wide. It adopts a step-wise process of participatory planning, pilot testing, constraints removal and expansion--stressing technology transfer, water management, intensification, diversification and value-addition. Periodic country assessments showed good progress in this farming systems-driven programme. The Conference may wish to consider recommending that donor countries including South-South Cooperation donors and international financing agencies increase funding of the FAO SPFS.

64. To increase the cost-effectiveness of such funding, the Conference may wish to recommend that countries seek farm management capacity-building from FAO particularly in such FAO forte as farm record keeping, farm-agribusiness linkages, livelihoods diversification, farmer resource management, farming systems improvement, and farm management extension among others. They may further wish to take advantage of FAO expertise in rice-livestock and rice-fisheries synergies.

Resource Conservation and Environmental Protection

65. Mitigating and arresting land degradation, water scarcity and air and water pollution in the rice sector are central to SARD. This requires three essential measures namely: legislation and enforcement of laws, rules and regulations; provision of fiscal incentives such as subsidies and tax concessions; and establishment of farmer-run natural resource management groups.

66. In redressing rice land degradation, the legislative, fiscal and management measures may be applied in five key areas. These are: forest and watershed protection; leaving rice production for other environment-friendly use in irrecoverable degraded rice lands; establishing best husbandry practices including among others, IPM, IPNS, IWM, etc; drainage; and remedy of problem soils.

67. In mitigating water scarcity, the same legislative-fiscal-management formula may be used to raise water resources through river diversion, reservoir storage, rainwater harvesting groundwater replenishment and waste water treatment. It could simultaneously be applied to improve water-use efficiency by way of water-saving irrigation, water-conserving cultural methods, drought-resistant cultivars, optimum water-fertilizer application, and other advanced water-saving technologies. It may further be directed at rehabilitating and upgrading old irrigation facilities as well as preventing pollution. To facilitate implementation, the pricing of water may be rationalized and collection of fees and use of revenue improved.

68. Containing air and water pollution would also require this three-pronged thrust. It may be targeted at promoting nitrogen-uptake efficiency; minimum use of toxic pesticides and weedicides; and new technologies such as controlled release urea, mineral and organic N-fertilizer admixtures, leaf-color chart and tiller number-guided N applications, foliar growth regulators, soil conditioners and others. It may further be aimed at encouraging environment-friendly livestock diets; improving animal waste disposal; extending carbon sequestration in soil and standing crops; and promoting production of biomass for fuel.

69. The Conference may wish to recommend that governments if they have not already done so, forge a policy regime and action plan to redress land degradation, water scarcity and air and water pollution grounded in law, fiscal incentive and community action.

70. In this regard, it may wish to recommend that FAO provide technical assistance through its multifarious natural resource conservation and environmental protection programmes. These include among others: Integrated Economics and Environmental Accounting; Conservation Agriculture; Biodiversity and Biosafety; Assessment of Degraded Lands; Water Resources Development and Management; Drainage and Irrigation Research; and introducing precision farming technology. Such technical assistance may be provided within the framework of the three international conventions on the environment for which FAO is the key partner, namely: the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD); the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD); and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Institutions and Services

71. For agriculture, particularly for rice cultivation to prosper and propel SARD, the current dilapidated land-use planning, tenure and administration systems in most developing countries must be revamped. The change should aim for equitable access, security of tenure, economic utilization and health of the land.

72. Such productivity enhancing systems will require:

The Conference may wish to recommend that concerned governments reinforce the systems of land-use planning, land tenure and land administration in the rice sector within the framework of the comprehensive national land-use plan.

73. FAO has a long history of work in this field. It is the World’s repository of knowledge on agrarian reform. This distinction is derived from fifty years of initiating, monitoring and evaluating reforms. The Conference may wish to recommend that FAO give high priority to providing technical assistance in land-use planning and land tenure administration, especially in the best practices of agro-ecological zoning, building efficient land markets, strengthening common property management, establishing fair tenancy and developing competent agricultural land administration. ICT and GIS technologies may be used wherever appropriate. Special attention may also be paid to improving women’s access to land and control of it.

74. A cost-effective rural financing system must be in place for rice farmers to help themselves. Because financing small farmers is expensive and risky it should have features that enhance viability, profitability and sustainability. These are:

75. As a first step towards a cost-effective system of rural finance, the Conference may wish to recommend that concerned governments create an enabling legal and regulatory environment for rural non-governmental microfinance institutions to register and operate in a sustainable manner.

76. The Conference may also wish to recommend that FAO provide technical assistance in formulating policies and action plans for sound rural finance systems that would improve farmers’ access to credit. In this regard, it may call upon FAO to give high priority to training in microbanking systems in collaboration with credit networks like the Asia-Pacific Rural Agricultural Credit Association (APRACA). It may further wish to request FAO to stress the importance of improving women’s access to credit.

77. Efficient marketing is crucial for productivity and income growth. This requires competition, transparency and appropriate technology in the markets. These essential qualities are missing in most developing countries. Policies and programmes are needed to promote pricing and technical efficiency in the marketing of rice and associated products and inputs. Such interventions should be directed at gradually removing trade-restricting laws, rules and regulations; supporting private enterprise; improving transportation networks; promoting investments in storage and processing machinery and equipment; and establishing wholesale and retail networks among others. Nationally integrated markets to provide the price signals for optimum allocation of resources would enable gains in productivity and income growth.

78. Furthermore, for many countries it may be opportune to reformulate the role, responsibilities and functions of the public distribution system (PDS). The recent PDS divestment of trade monopolies and shift towards disaster relief and rehabilitation work and targeted distribution, should be assessed to support policy-making.

79. To raise agricultural marketing efficiency including that of rice, the Conference may wish to recommend that countries improve their structural and functional organization of the market, modernize their market infrastructure and improve their marketing skills It may wish to suggest that the task be undertaken within the framework of TCDC in collaboration with the FAO-sponsored Association of Food and Agricultural Marketing Agencies in Asia and the Pacific (AFMA).

80. The Conference may also wish to recommend that FAO provide technical assistance in the key areas of rice commodity and trade analysis, market information, market liberalization and privatization and post-harvest loss prevention. For this purpose, the FAO Inter-Governmental Group on Rice may provide the necessary networking.

81. Apart from extension which will be discussed under agenda item III, one other institution merits attention namely farmer-owned organizations for group action. It is generally recognized that this is the weakest link in the process of decentralization and devolution in SARD.

82. Possible solutions may be found in the farmers’ cooperatives of the Republic of Korea, the farmers’ organizations of Taiwan, China and some regional produce (milk and other commodities) cooperatives of India. These successful models of farmer-empowerment permit local communities to identify needs, voice concerns, lobby for government resources and decide on ground action. Therefore, the Conference may wish to call upon governments to encourage farmer-owned group action organizations for effective decentralization of authority and devolution of resources in pursuance of SARD.

83. The Conference may also wish to recommend that FAO give high priority to providing technical assistance in the development of agricultural cooperatives in the rice sector in collaboration with the Regional Network for the Development of Agricultural Cooperatives in Asia and the Pacific (NEDAC).

Human Resources

84. The outcome of any rice policy regime depends ultimately on timely supply of skilled labour force. There is a real need to raise management and technical skills and the general level of education in the rice sector. Such intellectual capacity building in a wider context will determine whether millennium goals can be reached by rice growers. For this purpose, the Conference may wish to recommend that countries reinforce rural education policy regimes emphasizing free compulsory primary schooling, highly subsidized secondary schooling, adult education and special skills training for women and youth.

85. The requirement for labour in rice farming is irregular—peaking at planting and harvest times. The manpower input is often inadequate when most needed thereby lowering total factor productivity. This problem may be circumvented in two ways. One is to minimize labour requirements through mechanization and labour-saving cultural practices. The other way is to generate on-farm and nearby rural off-farm employment to reduce urban migration.

86. The Conference may wish to recommend that countries mitigate seasonal labour shortfalls in the rice sector through mechanization and labour-saving practices; and work towards adequate long-term supply of productive labour by generating rural on-farm, off-farm and non-farm employment opportunities to arrest urban migration.

87. For these purposes, the Conference may wish to recommend that FAO give high priority to R&D of rice farming mechanization. It may also wish to recommend that FAO provide technical assistance in developing value-adding post-harvest operations, agribusiness and agro-industry aimed at rural employment and income generation.


88. A large segment of the Region’s poor depend on rice as a staple food and as a livelihood system. What happens in this sector has preponderant impact on SARD for poverty alleviation. But FAO trend projections indicate modest gains in production, consumption and trade in the medium-term. To negate this disheartening prognosis, radical change in policy regime and action plan is needed. Such reform will have to balance the reality of current widespread under-nutrition with the desire for comparative and competitive advantage in the sector.

89. To aggressively promote SARD, four instruments are important. These are: legislation and enforcement of laws, rules and regulations; fiscal expenditures and tax incentives; farmers’ self-help organizations; and rural finance. They should be applied in concerted fashion to the three main action areas of any Rice-SARD Plan.

90. One action area will be to analyze rice ecosystems and classify them according to productivity and health. This would enable separation of rice lands for (i) productivity enhancement and stabilization, (ii) rehabilitation and (iii) shifting away from rice cultivation. Such an ecosystem classification exercise will tell governments where to put their money rationally from the start.

91. Two, the Rice-SARD Plan must raise total factor productivity while conserving the resource base and protecting the environment. This would require radical programmes to: upgrade technology; improve farm management; arrest and reverse land degradation; reduce air and water pollution; raise water-use efficiency; increase access to land; build institutions for participatory governance, small-farm financing, cost-efficient marketing and provision of other support services; and develop human resources.

92. Three the Rice-SARD Plan must also generate employment and incomes to alleviate poverty in the sector. It should create on-farm, off-farm and non-farm jobs and value-adding income opportunities.

93. In Rice-SARD planning, it is important to recognize that with the prevailing technology, management and institutional constraints, change will be difficult and slow. Social welfare considerations also preclude risky and uncertain initiatives to shift to other crops and enterprises. To make a difference, increased state budgetary allocations for R&D, decentralization and devolution of resources for empowerment of farmers and social welfare safety nets for rural people are critical.

94. Cooperation among rice producing and consuming countries can help. Collaborative activities in such key areas as quality improvement, grading and standardization, food safety, and consumption and trade promotion will expand markets and raise prices. Joint R&D will boost productivity, income and sustainability gains. It would pay to strengthen cooperation through networks and consortiums especially within the framework of the FAO Alliance against Hunger.