Agricultural Development Economics


Geographic determinants of rice self-sufficiency in Southeast Asia
ESA Working Pater 13-03
David Dawe
Publication date
Rice self-sufficiency is a key objective of most Asian governments, yet attaining that objective has been elusive for several countries over extended periods of time; long-term status as an exporter or importer is relatively constant, and is altered only by revolutionary events (i.e., major changes in policy or technologies). Traditional rice importers tend to eat less rice (and more wheat) than traditional exporters, so the determining factors behind rice self-sufficiency must lie on the supply side. This paper finds that the main determinant of (per capita) rice production is not rice yield per hectare, but rather the amount of per capita rice area harvested, which in turn is determined largely by the proportion of land that is well-suited for growing rice. Thus, countries with ample (per capita) supplies of water and flat land (i.e. those with dominant river deltas on the mainland) are self-sufficient in rice, and countries with more varied landscapes are not.
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