2003, United Nations, New York -- The United Nations
today launched a major international drive to increase the
production of rice.
International Year of Rice 2004, the Director-General of the UN
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Dr. Jacques Diouf, said
that rice "is the staple food for over half of the
world's population" but warned that "its
production is facing serious constraints."
Dr Diouf pointed out that the world population was
continuing to grow, but land and water resources for rice
production are diminishing.
the Green Revolution of the 1970s greatly alleviated the global
burden of hunger in some parts of the world, these benefits have
been levelling off," he warned.
FAO figures show that, by 2030, total demand for rice
will be 3 percent higher than the annual amounts produced
between 1997 and 1999. Rice is the most rapidly growing food
source in Africa and has a major influence on human nutrition
and food security all over the world. Sustainable rice-based
production systems can help the eradication of world hunger and
achieving the UN Millennium Goals. "Almost a billion
households in Asia, Africa and the Americas depend on rice
systems for their main source of employment and
livelihood," Dr Diouf told UN delegates.
"About four-fifths of the world's rice is produced
by small-scale farmers and is consumed locally. Rice systems
support a wide variety of plants and animals, which also help
supplement rural diets and incomes. Rice is therefore on the
frontline in the fight against world hunger and
He said that rice
production and consumption is a pivot of many cultures around
the world. Calling rice "a symbol of cultural identity
and global unity," Dr. Diouf said it shapes religious
observances, festivals, customs, cuisine and celebrations. Hence
the UN decision to take a unique step in its history and
dedicate a year to this single crop - rice. FAO will lead a
number of international agricultural organizations in organising
a campaign under the motto Rice is Life.
The campaign was sparked by a proposal last year from
44 UN member countries, citing a 'pending crisis' in
rice production. Since the early 1990s, the proposal stated,
scientists had been warning that growth in rice yields were
falling and were lower than population growth.
Rapid acceleration of rice production in the last
three decades had been a primary contributor to improvements in
world food security, the proposal continued. But of the 840
million people still suffering from chronic hunger, over
fifty-percent lived in areas dependent on rice production for
food, income and employment.
"It's time," Dr Diouf urged,
"for the global community to work together to increase
rice production in a sustainable way that will benefit farmers,
women, children and especially the poor. Global initiatives
aimed at promoting sustainable agricultural development have
been established over the years by many countries. I see the
International Year of Rice 2004 as a powerful opportunity for
the global community to implement these initiatives."
"The Year of Rice will act as a
catalyst for country-driven programmes throughout the
world," announced the FAO Director-General.
"We aim to engage the entire community of stakeholders,
from rural farmers to the scientific institutions that mapped
the rice genome, in the mission to increase rice production in a
manner that promotes sustainability and equity. Many member
countries have already formed National Committees for the
International Year of Rice and they will serve as the dynamic
link between our international vision and the practical
realities in local people's lives."
This strategy has been successful in the past,
according to FAO. Just after World War II, rapid population
growth coupled with slow rice production had led experts to
predict starvation in Asia. On its own, FAO had declared 1966
the Year of Rice. Numerous countries took measures to improve
production, marketing, milling and nutrition. Conferences were
organised and scientific research stimulated.
The 2004 campaign will similarly seek to propel
increased research and application of improved methodologies. A
scientific contest will be held, along with regional and
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