Poverty is where rice is grown

Now, I’ll provide a few more details on why investment in GRiSP—now and in future phases beyond 2016—is so important, especially in addressing the concerns of this workshop. The map shows where rice is consumed in the world. In large parts of the world, people are eating 70, 80, or 100 kilos or more annually (shades of green). Where rice is widely consumed, each red dot on the map represents 250,000 people living on less than US$1.25 per day—abject poverty. The world today still has huge concentrations of poverty and most of these concentrations are where rice is grown. This is the message I try to make clear to anyone who will listen—if we want to overcome problems of poverty and hunger, rice must be part of the solution!

rice production and consumption

Now, if we look at the global rice equation, as far as we can tell, the demand for rice is going to continue to grow for many decades to come. Every prediction that the demand for rice is going to taper off has proven to be incorrect. If we look at the population trends for the next several decades, the world is going to be adding about a billion people every 12 to 15 years. Now, a billion people translate into 100 million tons of additional paddy to feed them. So, just in order to keep pace with population growth, we’ll have to add 100 million tons of paddy (produced rice) or 65 million tons of milled rice every decade and a half—a major challenge!

global rice equation

One key question is: Where will the world’s rice come from in the future? Ideally, it will come from existing lands, primarily in Asia. We don’t want to be clearing new land for agriculture. We want to make existing land more efficient. But, if we consider the social and economic dynamics across Asia and indeed the rest of the world, land is moving out of agriculture.