Mumbai, India — The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Asia Society launched a new food security report for Asia in Mumbai today, calling for increased investment in rice research.
The report, Never an empty bowl: sustaining food security in Asia, emphasizes the importance of rice as the primary staple food in Asia and a major source of income for Asian farmers. Existing global efforts to combat hunger and achieve food security are evaluated in the report, which also recommends more research on: climate change mitigation for farming, farming infrastructure, and market price stability.
“India, which is the second biggest producer of rice and where rice is a staple for more than 65% of the population, is an indispensable partner in spearheading rice research,” said IRRI Deputy Director General for Research, Dr. Achim Dobermann, who helped launched the report.
India’s leading agricultural scientist Prof. M. S. Swaminathan, co-chaired the international task force of prominent global thinkers, including the founder and board chair of the IT company Infosys Mr. Narayana Murthy, that prepared the report.
Poverty remains the single biggest factor contributing to food insecurity in Asia,” said Prof. Swaminathan at the initial launch of the report in New York. “Two-thirds of the world’s 1.4 billion poor people surviving on less than $1.25 per day live in Asia. They spend half of their income on purchasing food, mainly rice. For the extreme poor, having access to adequate food is often too costly.”
He added that raising agricultural productivity is central to achieving overall economic development that reaches the poor.
The report coincides with IRRI’s 50th anniversary fundraising campaign, which seeks to raise support for rice research through philanthropy and the private sector in Asia. Funds raised by this campaign will go toward the IRRI-led Global Rice Science Partnership, which will be carried out with hundreds of research and development partners around the world, including India.
IRRI has had a strong relationship with India since the Institute’s inception, and established a local research office in Pusa nearly 30 years ago. IRRI has around 170 research partnerships with Indian agricultural institutions and organizations, including more than 40 under the Indian Council for Agricultural Research umbrella, as well as academic institutions. IRRI also has approximately 130 adaptation and dissemination partnerships in India, which include government bodies such as the National Food Security Mission and the National Seeds Corporation, nongovernment organizations, companies, and farmer associations.
Since the 1960s, India’s rice production has improved with the use of better rice varieties, more precise nutrient management practices, and improved irrigation infrastructure, among other factors. However, erratic monsoons and extremes in weather patterns are proving increasingly challenging to the hundreds of millions of farmers in India. Investment in rice research will help to develop better methods of adaptation to floods, droughts, and high-salinity conditions, all of which will increasingly hinder rice production as climate change progresses.
Through greater investment and by growing more and healthier rice in an environmentally sustainable way, the report suggests, rice prices will be stabilized and poverty in Asia can be reduced by approximately 15% by 2030.