Asia developing new rice strategy to meet future demand

29/11/2013 - 

Ageing farmers, climate change and scarce resources threaten growth of rice production 

The future of rice is under threat on many fronts, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today at the opening session of a two-day consultation by its External Rice Advisory Group (ERAG), which is advising FAO on the formulation of a rice strategy for Asia and the Pacific. Professor M S Swaminathan, known as the father of the green revolution, is chairing the ERAG meeting and R B Singh, a former FAO Assistant Director-General, is the group's team leader.

Rice is the most important staple food of the Asia-Pacific region and some 90 percent of all the world’s rice is grown in the region. Its production dominates the agricultural landscapes and it is an important base of economies, the environment, culture and livelihoods for hundreds of millions of farmers.

Rice economy is suffering from resource scarcity, notably water and land, while rice farming is also blamed for green house gas emissions and degrading natural resources. Rice consumption per person is also slowing as incomes in the region grow.

Hiroyuki Konuma, Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative of FAO’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific said in opening remarks at the consultation that Asia’s share of rice exports accounts for approximately 80 percent of global rice trade. He called rice “the commodity, which is the most important commodity for the economy, food security and the livelihoods of the people in Asia.”

Konuma added, “Consumption of rice in Africa is also increasing. Rice is now the staple food in more than 10 countries in Africa,” playing an increasingly important role not only in Asian food security, but also in global food security.

Faced with these realities, FAO member countries asked FAO at the 2012 FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific in Hanoi to coordinate the development of a regional rice strategy for Asia. FAO then established the external advisory group to provide advice on formulating the Asia rice strategy. The primary role of ERAG is to bring together neutral and unbiased expertise and knowledge on policy and technical aspects of rice and to provide comments and suggestions for the draft policy and technical documents prepared by the formulation team.

The consultation’s recommendations will be announced at the conclusion of the final session.

Submitted by: John Riddle