Present scenario and future concerns
Rice production has witnessed major advances during the last five decades because of the wide-scale adoption of Green Revolution technology. At the global level between 1966 and 2009, the population increased by 90% but rice production has overtaken it by 166%, from 257 million tons in 1966 to 684 million tons in 2009. Although in India the population more than doubled, rice production went ahead by 3.5 times from 30.4 million tons in 1966 to 105.2 million tons in 2012 (Table 4). This commendable achievement was mainly possible because of the development of plant type-based, fertilizer-responsive high-yielding varieties for all ecosystems with pest/disease resistance. But, what causes concern is the fact that the growth rate decelerated in the 1990s from what had been witnessed in the ‘80s because of the practice of intensified agriculture.
Therefore, the anticipated increase in production has to necessarily come from surmounting the problems of yield plateauing, declining trends in total factor productivity, the depleting natural resource base, and coping with climate change while making rice farming a profitable venture for farmers. If the growth trend of recent years is any indication, it will not be an easy proposition to achieve the targeted production of almost 130 million tons by 2025 (Fig. 3). The challenge ahead is therefore sustaining productivity growth without endangering the natural resource base that exists and producing more. This warrants enhancing current rice productivity from 2.9 t/ha in the irrigated ecosystem to almost 3.9 t/ha and in the rainfed ecosystem from 1.3 t/ha to 2.5 t/ha at the current or even reduced level of irrigation and input use. Assuming that the total rice area in the country would stabilize around 43 million hectares within this time frame, average rice productivity should reach 3.2 t/ha from the present 2.05 t/ha by 2025.