Rice facts



Sustainable Rice: The Global Challenge

Rice is the daily staple for half the global population- more than 3.5 billion people, many of them classed as food-insecure. The livelihoods of over 1 billion people depend upon rice production. For hundreds of millions of small farmers in developing countries, it is the only thing between them and starvation.

However, with demand for rice projected to grow by 50 percent by 2050, growth in global supply is lagging; yield growth is declining, and cannot keep pace with population growth. Urbanization and industrialization add further to the pressure to grow more from a declining agricultural resource base. At the same time, environmental concerns underscore the need for action to enhance resource efficiency and reduce the environmental footprint of rice systems; rice production uses 34-43% of the world’s irrigation water and is responsible for 5% to 10% of global methane emissions.

With finite land area and diminishing natural resources, ensuring economic, environmental and social sustainability both on the farm and throughout the rice value chain, represents a critical development challenge.

Facing such formidable challenges, what can we do to enhance productivity and efficiency not only at the farm level, but for all rice value chain actors, whilst protecting our environment and enhancing smallholder livelihoods?

Whilst sustainable production and trade have been addressed for a number of higher-value commodities, issues of sustainability have yet to be addressed for the rice value chain, despite its critical importance for global food security. The challenge is compounded by the complexity and fragmented nature of the global rice sector- a large proportion of the global rice area is cultivated by small farmers, with a high proportion of production destined for domestic consumption within producing countries. Only 5-7% of total production enters global trade flows, much of it via South-South bulk trade.


Rice Facts

• Rice is produced on 160 million hectares, with a large part cultivated by 200 million smallholders

• More than 3.5 billion people depend on rice for more than 20% of their daily calories

• One fifth of the world’s population depends on rice cultivation for their livelihoods.

• Declining yield growth (from 2.2% during 1970-90 to less than 0.8% since then)

• Global rice production area is declining due to land conversion, salinization and increased water scarcity


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