Rice is a central part of many cultures and some countries even credit rice cultivation with the development of their civilization. It is remarkable that almost every culture has its own way of harvesting, processing and eating rice and these different traditions are, in fact, part of the world's cultural heritage.
Rice cultivation is the principal activity and source of income for millions of households around the globe, and several countries of Asia and Africa are highly dependent on rice as a source of foreign exchange earnings and government revenue.
Rice has shaped the cultures and dietary habits of its cultivators and consumers. The combination of rice and fish in Asian countries has generated the term "rice-fish societies". The combination of rice and legumes characterizes cuisines from Cajun to Mexican to Middle Eastern to Southern European. In Columbia, "rice and beans" is acclaimed as the national food. This basic dish continues to be the sustenance of the poor in many countries.
Observing the International Year of Rice in 2004 allowed us all to work together to contribute to the fight against hunger and poverty, to sustain our environment and provide a better life for millions of women, men and children.