Producing more sustainable rice for the benefits of consumers and rice farmers

Rice is a cereal that feeds half of the planet. Poor rice farmers often live within blocks of multinational companies headquarters. In cities, the demand for rice is growing and consumers tend to want rice cereals that are high quality in terms of taste and also promote food security. Yet rice production cannot keep up with the demand and the available land for rice paddy fields is getting constantly scarcer. There is therefore a need for higher productivity that is also environmentally sustainable. TECHNA Group experts are fully aware of these issues and are prepared to apply their expertise in finding solutions to this challenge!

Rice, pillar of family, society and economy in Asia

increasing rice production rice sustainability vietnam rice paddles Rice feeds more than half of the world's inhabitants. No other crop feeds so many people, supports so many farmers, or is as crucial to our global environment. Much more than a mere food crop, rice is a way of life for 70 % of the poor in Asia, for whom rice is often the main source of income.

Rice paddles play a key role in maintaining the social stability and economic development of economic giants such as China, India or Indonesia. The rapid growth of rice production recorded for nearly half a century has slowed down considerably since the end of the 1980s. Today, consumption is increasing steadily, and rice growth is facing major new challenges. Every year, the number of mouths to feed increases by nearly 50 million in Asia. The production increases needed will have to be produced on less land by fewer people using less water and fewer chemical inputs!

Appalling figures on rice consumption and production

Consumers are certainly benefiting from the current low prices of rice, which are the most depressed in recent history, at the expense of small-scale producers who have difficulties making a living off of one hectare of paddy per family on average. Under such conditions, where will the new generation of rice farmers come from? At a time when investments in rice-related R&D efforts are on the decline even though they have proved profitable in the past, where are the indispensable innovations needed to take on the 21st century rice challenge going to come from?

Along with wheat and maize, rice is one of the 3 most widely grown cereals in the world. Worldwide rice cultivation involves over than 400 million small producers and 15% of the globe’s arable land. 90% of the world’s rice is produced in Asia. Only 10% of the rice produced is traded worldwide, compared with 20% for wheat, and Sub-Saharan Africa imports one-third of that rice. Rice is the staple food of 4 billion people. It contributes to 27% of calorie intake in low and middle-income countries. Last but not least, the production of rice will have to increase by at least 20% by 2040.

Improving profitability and sustainable management of rice production

Increasing the total rice production is an absolute must to ensure food security. The growth of the world population will require a 20% increase in production by 2040, even as the land that can be put into rice cultivation remains limited except in some parts of Africa and South America.

This means that we must adapt to the impacts of climate change and mitigate the negative effects of rice growth on the climate (GHG emissions) and on the environment more generally. We will also have to manage resources more effectively (land, water, labor) given competing urban and industrial uses of these resources.

Production will have to be profitable enough to improve the incomes of the 400 million poor people involved in rice farming while keeping rice affordable for the 500 million poor rural and urban consumers who rely on it.

An additional challenge is the absolute necessity to adapt to structural changes such as population aging in Asia’s agricultural lands as the younger generation leave for better working opportunities, and the booming demographics of youth in Africa.

Another challenge lies in the increased divergence of production systems: a trend towards more entrepreneurial models of rice agriculture in favorable environments versus family farming in more constrained environments. On the demographic side, we must also consider the rapid emergence of an urban middle class sensitive to taste as well as nutritional and health considerations.

The rapid increase in international rice trade must also adjust more quickly to globalization, which goes hand in hand with higher price volatility than other major cereals.

Innovating practices in rice cultivation and North-South cooperation around rice disease experiment

Greenov's experts wish to play a key role in meeting these challenges with their accumulated research-based expertise through on-field counseling and innovative practices. Our ‘local’ presence allowed our experts to focus their attention on the rice blast disease devastating Vietnamese rice paddy fields. This project, run jointly with the CIRAD, the entrepreneurial Group Loic Troi, the Can Tho University and Cuu Lon Rice Research Institute, is a good example of how French and Vietnamese experts can join forces and implement innovative projects. A solution is currently in being subjected to experimental testing in controlled conditions in greenhouses as well as in the open field.

Greenov's experts are available for any question pertaining to rice diseases and the means to contain them. Do not hesitate to contact them!

Sources :

- Arbre, agriculture, environnement, santé, tiers-monde
François Garczynski, ingénieur du génie rural des eaux et des forêts (retraité depuis 2002)

- Le riz, enjeux écologiques et économiques
Collection Mappemonde dirigée par Rémy Knafou, Belin 2004
Guy Trébuil, agronome du CIRAD, détaché à l’Institut international de recherche sur le riz (IRRI)
Mahabub Hossain, économiste, IRRI, Los Banos (Phillipines)


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