Washington, April 12: The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has called on the international community to start focusing on solutions to what's being described as a "rice price crisis" in Asia and elsewhere. A regional meeting held by the institute's board of trustees in the Philippine city of Los Banos recently, looked at six key issues seen as vital to increasing rice production in Asia.
Increased production is needed to ease the sharp rise in rice prices that has swept across the region causing uncertainty and concern. According to Professor Elizabeth Woods, the newly appointed chair of IRRI's Board of Trustees, "IRRI and its partners solved similar rice production problems in Asia in the 1960s and 70s and we can do it again - what we need is the committed support of donors and policy makers as well as better awareness among the media and general public of the problems we face," he added.
The Institute is calling for increased focus - from both the public and private sectors - on the following six key areas:
First of all, an agronomic revolution in Asian rice production is needed to reduce existing yield gaps. Farmers have struggled to maximize the production potential of the rice varieties they are growing, so there is a gap between the potential yield and the actual yield. That's the reason why farmers must improve their crop management skills so they can better deal with higher input prices.
Then, the delivery of new post-harvest technologies should be accelerated. Post harvest includes the storage, drying and processing of rice.
Another innovation that needs to be done is accelerating the introduction of higher yielding rice varieties.
Then, it's also important to strengthen and upgrade the rice breeding and research pipelines, a prominent reason being that funding for the development of new rice varieties has steadily been reduced over the past decade or more.
Likewise, record high fertilizer prices and new pest outbreaks demand that rice crop and resource management research need urgent revitalization.
Also significant is accelerating research on the world's thousands of rice varieties so scientists can tap the vast reservoir of untapped knowledge they contain.
Another vital concern for the Asian rice industry is the education and training of young scientists and researchers from each rice-producing country. Asia urgently needs to train a new generation of rice scientists and researchers before the present generation retires.
According to Professor Woods, "The problems facing rice production in Asia are not unique to one country; they are shared by nearly all the rice consuming nations of Asia. We need to work together to find the right solutions."