Protecting South East Asia’s rice bowl

By Paul Nicholson, vice-president for rice research and sustainability, Olam Agri

Both a source of life and livelihoods, rice is the lifeblood of Asia

Recent global developments and rising hunger have put the spotlight on one of the world’s largest rice producers after India: South East Asia. A region where rice has a name in no less than ten languages and featured in almost every national dish, South East Asia is now in the global spotlight for its crucial role in global rice production.

Both a source of life and livelihoods, rice is the lifeblood of Asia. More than 90% of rice is produced and consumed within the region, making it vital for food security and an important source of nutrition. Rice agriculture also drives economic growth. Nearly 400 million people grow rice on 144 million smallholder farms across the Asia-Pacific region.

But fuelled by population growth, adverse weather events and export curbs, the global demand for rice is forecast to outstrip supply in the near term. This is consistent with the USDA forecast for 2022/23.

Within this global context, South East Asia is primed to play a more prominent role in meeting the world’s demand for rice. But even as we look to grow more rice, we cannot ignore the impact of traditional rice farming on the environment and vice versa. Rice cultivation is a significant contributor of methane, a greenhouse gas. At the same time, climate change is projected to reduce the global rice supply by up to 15% by 2050.

The full article can be found here.