ROME, 17 July 2002 --
"There is an increasing concern about the current rice
production practices meeting demands, contributing effectively
to rural poverty alleviation and minimizing environmental
degradation," the UN Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO) warns in advance of the 20th session of the International
Rice Commission (IRC) to be held in Bangkok, Thailand, 23-26
"Productivity of rice
is now increasing at a slower rate than during the height of the
Green Revolution," FAO expert Dat Tran says.
"Yield stagnation in many Asian countries, limited
possibilities for arable land expansion, and fewer water
resources for expanding rice planted areas are the main
constraints to expanding production. Other concerns are related
to environmental degradation, genetic erosion and nutritional
quality of rice," Mr. Tran adds.
Rice yield growth rate decelerated from 2.3 percent
per year during the 1980s to 1.1 per cent per year during the
1990s (or approximately equal to population growth) due to the
difficulty of sustaining the growth of rice productivity as
yield has advanced, according to FAO.
2001, world production of milled rice reached 397.2 million
tonnes as compared to 381.1 million tonnes in 1996. Milled rice
represents 67 per cent of paddy rice (i.e. 592.8 million tonnes
in 2001 and 568.5 million tonnes in 1996). However, a
considerable quantity of rice will be required to meet future
needs. In 2030, global demand is projected to be approximately
533 million tonnes of milled rice, as compared to 472 million
tonnes projected for 2015 and 386 million tonnes in 1997/99. In
2030, the world population is expected to reach 8.2 billion as
against 6.2 billion today.
Rice is the
world's most important staple food crop. More than
four-fifths of the world's rice is produced and consumed by
small-scale farmers in low-income and developing countries. More
than half of the world's population relies on rice as the
major daily source of calories and protein. The amount of rice
consumed by each of these people ranges from 100 to 240 kg per
year, according to FAO.
In recent years,
the world's rice production has especially suffered from
the lack of investment in irrigation development and research
work. This has slowed down the adoption of existing high
yielding varieties (hybrid rice, for instance) and improved crop
of modern rice varieties may render the crop more vulnerable to
outbreaks of pests and diseases. "The erosion of
genetic diversity due to the adoption of few improved varieties
may limit the success of rice varietal improvement for higher
yield, quality and resistance," FAO experts say.
The current approaches to intensification
of rice production have caused considerable damage to the
environment and related natural resources, including the
building up of salinity/alkalinity, water pollution and health
hazards caused by excessive use of agro-chemicals and emission
of important greenhouse gases. Proper management practices will
certainly minimize these negative effects and will increase
productivity, according to FAO.
Rice is the
main source of food energy and is an important source of protein
providing substantial amounts of the recommended nutrient uptake
of zinc and niacin. It is very low in calcium, iron, thiamine
and riboflavin and nearly with no beta-carotene. However there
appears to be some genetic variation for iron and zinc content
in rice, which may offer an opportunity for improving its
nutritional value, FAO experts say.
the Green Revolution (1966-1990), the increase in the world rice
production has resulted in more rice being available for
consumption despite the continued increase in population.
However there are still some 815 million people in the world
suffering from hunger and malnutrition, and most of them live in
areas that are dependent upon rice production for food, income,
and employment, FAO underlines.The FAO's International Rice
Commission is a forum where senior policy makers and rice
specialists from 61 countries review their national rice
research and development programmes. Its objective is the
promotion of national and international action in matters
relating to the production, conservation, distribution and
consumption of rice. Its member countries have grown from 15 in
1949 to 61 at present. The last 19th Session of the IRC was
convened in Cairo, Egypt in 1998.