Rice is the most important food crop of the developing world. It is the staple food of about half the world’s population. Roughly 900 million of the world’s poor depend on rice as producers or as consumers. On overage, rice accounts for nearly half of the food expenses of poor people and a fifth of their total household expenses. It is well established that the rapid productivity growth of rice resulting from the use of improved varieties, fertilizers, and irrigation (popularly known as the Green Revolution) increased production and led to a long-term decline in rice prices. This has been the major factor helping to reduce poverty in Asia over the past several decades.
Despite the past achievements, rice productivity growth will remain essential in the future for several important reasons. Rice yield growth has slowed considerably in recent years and has failed to keep up with population growth, leading to shortages and higher prices that have adversely affected the poor. This was demonstrated by the food crisis and the rice price spike experienced in 2008. Clearly, food security remains somewhat tenuous despite the rapid economic growth experienced in many parts of the world.