By International Rice Research Institute
Preventing Shortages and Price Rises
The best strategy for keeping the price of rice low is to ensure that production increases faster than demand. Rice production can be increased by expanding the area planted to rice, by increasing the yield per unit area, or by a combination of the two. The opportunity for further increasing the rice area in Asia is now quite limited. The total rice area in Asia is unlikely to increase much beyond the current estimate of 136 million hectares. Although some increase in cropping intensity is still possible, rice land is being lost to industrialization, urbanization, or conversion to other crops.
The main source of additional production will therefore have to be yield growth. Global average rice yields must continue to rise at an annual rate of at least 50 kg per hectare to keep pace with the expected demand, or by 0.5 tons per hectare over the next 10 years (about 12% above current levels).
Productivity growth through the development and dissemination of improved technologies is the only long-term viable solution for bringing prices down, preventing future increases in price, and ensuring that affordable rice is available to poor rice consumers.
To achieve this, a second Green Revolution is needed now as much as the first Green Revolution was needed to avoid famine and mass starvation. The task is equally challenging but not insurmountable, provided a substantial boost is given to agricultural research, which continues to remain highly underinvested. Increased research investment together with policy reforms that make rice markets more efficient will help bring rice prices down to a level affordable to the poor and, ultimately, reduce poverty.
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