Hanoi, Vietnam - The world's biggest
rice-exporting and -importing
nations have collectively endorsed a new Rice Action Plan targeting
of the problems that triggered this year's rice price crisis.
At a meeting of the ten-nation Association of Southeast Asian
(ASEAN) in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi this week, ministers
agriculture unanimously endorsed a seven-point action plan
the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). ASEAN includes
the world's largest rice exporters, Thailand and Vietnam, and
importing nations as well.
The endorsement came at the 30th annual meeting of the ASEAN
of Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF). It was presented as part
comprehensive food security strategy being developed for the
home to more than 500 million rice consumers, including some
"The message is very clear," IRRI's director general,
Robert S. Zeigler, said. "We have the scientific expertise,
knowledge, and partnerships to grow the rice Asia needs and
now-with this endorsement by these nations-we have strong political
support. The only thing missing are the financial resources
needed to implement this."
Dr. Zeigler told the ministers that IRRI needs an additional
million a year for the next ten years to adequately support
Rice Action Plan. "At a time of trillion-dollar bailouts
for the global
financial sector, $15 million a year is barely the annual bonus
former Wall Street executive," Dr. Zeigler said.The Rice
Action Plan was developed by IRRI earlier this year during the
rice price crisis in consultation with its partners around
It includes the following measures:
1. Bring about an agronomic revolution to reduce existing yield
Depending on production conditions, an unexploited yield gap
of 1-2 t/ha currently exists in most farmers' fields in the
rice-growing areas of Asia. This yield gap can be reduced through
the integrated use of
stress-resistant varieties and better crop management practices.
requires funding support to programs aimed at improving farmers'
in practices such as land preparation, water and nutrient management,
and the control of various pests, diseases, and weeds.
2. Accelerate the delivery of new postharvest technologies
Postharvest includes the storing, drying, and processing of
Considerable losses occur in terms of both the quantity and
rice during postharvest operations because of the use of old
inefficient practices. The active promotion of exciting new
technologies that are currently available for on-farm storage
and drying will reduce losses considerably.
3. Accelerate the introduction and adoption of higher-yielding
New rice varieties are available today that can increase production,
but farmers are not using them because the systems that introduce
varieties are under-resourced. Enhancing germplasm exchange,
testing, and release pipelines can make current high-yielding
stress-resistant varieties and hybrids more widely available
in irrigated and rainfed lowland areas of Asia.
4. Strengthen and upgrade breeding pipelines for developing
varieties and hybrids.
Funding for the development of new rice varieties has declined
over the past decade or more. This must be reversed in order
the next generations of new rice varieties that will be required
productivity growth in sustainable agriculture. Several opportunities
are available to accelerate the development of new rice varieties
hybrids with higher yield, better grain quality, and increased
tolerance of abiotic stresses and with multiple resistances
to insects and diseases through new molecular breeding approaches.
5. Accelerate research on the world's thousands of rice varieties
scientists can use the vast reservoir of untapped genetic resources
Working with IRRI, the world's nations have spent decades
collecting thousands of rice varieties. More than 100,000 rice
types are now being carefully managed and used at IRRI and
in Asian nations.
However, only a small fraction of these vital genetic resources
has been haracterized in detail or used widely. New molecular
methods have now opened the door for revealing the valuable
genetic characteristics in each variety.
6. Develop a new generation of rice scientists and researchers
public and private sectors.
Part of the current rice crisis reflects the lack of investment
science, including human capital investment. The education
of young scientists and researchers are also vital concerns
for the riceindustry. Asia urgently needs to train a new generation
scientists and researchers to enable the region to exploit
developments in modern science more effectively.
7. Provide rice policy support.
Conducive policy environments are needed to achieve the fuller
technology for rapid production growth in an efficient, equitable,
sustainable manner. Rice production is being affected by several
dynamic economic factors and their potential impact can be
manipulated through suitable policy reforms. The identification
of policy constraints, the generation of alternative policy
options, and policy advocacy are therefore essential.
For more information on the Rice Action Plan, including detailed
budgets, please visit http://solutions.irri.org/.
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The International Rice
Research Institute (IRRI) is the world's leading rice research
and training center. Based in the Philippines, with offices
in 13 other countries, IRRI is an autonomous, nonprofit institution
focused on improving the well-being of present and future
generations of rice farmers and consumers, particularly those
with low incomes, while preserving natural resources. IRRI
is one of 15 centers
funded through the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research
(CGIAR), an association of public and private donor agencies (www.cgiar.org).