The most important crop in Asia is also gaining popularity in Latin America and Africa in the midst of climate change. Is there enough to go around?
Rice-producing countries, farmers and scientists from around the globe gathered in Vietnam this November for the third International Rice Congress. Held every four years, the congress is the world's largest meeting of the rice industry, which feeds an estimated 3 billion people everyday, more than half the world’s population.
Left: Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Mindanao, Philippines - A farmer returns to his rice field he had abandoned two years earlier at the height of conflict between Muslim separatist rebels and Philippine forces
This post was originally published in IRIN.
Credit: Jason Gutierrez/IRIN
The five-day conference, hosted by the Vietnamese government and organised by IRRI, in the capital, Hanoi, saw about 1,200 participants from more than 66 countries. Under the theme, Rice for Future Generations, the congress focused on how science and technology can better help farmers grow rice more efficiently. The congress comes at a crucial time as farming area is declining, the effects of climate change are being felt, and global rice consumption is growing.
Vietnam is the fifth-largest rice producer and the second-largest rice exporter in the world.
Left: A rice farmer in Bangladesh. Rice is a staple part of the Bangladeshi diet
Credit: Matt Crook/IRIN
Rice is the staple food for more than half the world's population, including 640 million undernourished people living in Asia. We take a look at a life with rice, in order to perceive a life without it.
Left: Rice and maize make up 60 percent of caloric intake for households in the country of East Timor.
For every one billion people added to the world's population, an additional 100 million MT of rice needs to be produced every year.
Left: A farmer inspecting his rain-fed rice field in Sagada, in the northern Philippines. Experts at the Philippine-based International Rice Research Institute say they have developed rice varieties that are flood resistant, and could help farmers in typhoon- and flood-prone Asian countries.
Rice is uniquely suited to wet environments in which other crops would not survive; hence its widespread popularity across Asia.
Left: Rice production has increased markedly in the eastern Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.
Credit: Ayub Farhat/IRIN
Projected demand for rice will outstrip supply in the near to medium term unless something is done to reverse current trends.
Left: A girl eating steamed rice that her mother has obtained from donor agencies in the Myanmar region
Credit: Lynn Maung/IRIN
Rice consumption exceeds 100kg per person per year in many Asian countries.
Left: A woman prepares donated rice for cooking in an IDP camp in Kabul, Afghanistan June 2008. Displacement has been a constant feature of the political turmoil in Afghanistan over the past few decades. The overthrow of the monarchy, the invasion and subsequent withdrawal of Soviet forces, the short-lived Mujahideen government and the rise and fall of the radical Islamic Taliban rule each produced new waves of refugees and internally displaced people.
Credit: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
One-fifth of the world's population, more than one billion people, depend on rice cultivation for their livelihood.
Caption: Many Filipino rice farmers have to borrow money for fertilizer and other inputs and repay their loans with substantial portions of their rice harvest, leaving them little money on which to live.
Credit: Veejay Vilafranca/IRIN
Asia, where about 90 percent of all rice is grown, has more than 200 million rice farms, most of which smaller than one hectare.
Left: Children parade in the streets of Banaue in Ifugao Province north of the Philippines May 2008. The recent culmination of the Imbayah rice festival heralds the bountiful harvest in what is considered the 8th wonder of the world. But as the festivities fades the country faces imminent increase in rice prices that will create a domino effect amongst the prices of basic commodities in the Philippines which is already considered one of the highest in the region.
Credit: Veejay Villafranca/IRIN
Rice is the fastest-growing food staple in Africa and one of the most important and fastest growing staples in Latin America - both regions are net importers.
Left: Residents of a slum in the heart of Manila enjoys free rice porridge from Non Governmental agencies during a feeding program in the area May 2008.
In most of the developing world, rice availability is equated with food security and closely connected to political stability.
Left: A bountiful rice harvest comes only a little more than a year after Typhoon Reming (Durian) destroyed most of the rice crop and the irrigation system in the Barangay of Hindi in the Municipality of Bacagay, Albay Province. The crop is a good one thanks to seed and fertiliser provided by FAO and the provincial government, as well as a newly rebuilt irrigation system.
Rice can be grown in a wide range of locations and climates. it is grown in the wettest areas on the planet and the driest deserts. The top five producers are: China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Vietnam.
Left: In Barangay Hindi in the Municipality of Bacagay, Albay Province, a farmer at work harvesting his plentiful rice crop.
The top five exporters are: Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan, US and India. Aside from feeding half of the people on Earth, rice is the main source of livlihood of millions of farmers and their families.
Left: Residents of Kenna So Kyaung village, in the outskirts of Bogalay in the Irrawady delta region, receive rice from private donors.
The top five importers are: Philippines, Iran, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
Left: A young boy eats in a native plate of locally grown rice in Banaue in Ifugao Province north of the Philippines May 2008.
Some 120,000 varieties of rice exist today.
Left: A man sells rice in Minguindano Province, Mandanao Island in the southern Philippines, March 2008. Rice prices have surged to a 20-year high in the latest sign of global food inflation.
Worldwide, 80 million hectares of irrigated rice (55 percent of the total area) produce about three-quarters of rice harvested.
Left: A farmer collects rice in Minguindano Province, Mandanao Island in the southern Philippines, March 2008.
Average global rice yields are around four tonnes per hectare, but yields of more than 10 tonnes a hectare have been recorded.
Left: A farmer cleans rice in Minguindano Province, Mandanao Island in the southern Philippines, March 2008. The staple food for the majority of Filipinos, rice, is considered a political commodity and the looming shortage and price increases could spell trouble for the government, some critics have said.
It takes between 90 and 200 days for a rice crop to mature. The challenge, above anything else, is to produce more rice with less land, less water, and less labor, in more efficient, environmentally-friendly production systems that are more resilient to climate change, among other factors.
Left: Rice farmers planting in Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 2007. Rice is planted on 75 percent of the arable land in Bangladesh and is crucial to the ability of the country to feed its growing population.