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Sustainable hybrid rice strategy for Asia

Sustainable hybrid rice strategy for Asia under discussion to promote greater rice yields

2 July 2014, Bangkok, Thailand –

With the right strategy and approaches, hybrid rice development in Asia has great potential to achieve a breakthrough in stagnating rice yield growth, and would help produce additional food for a hungry world, a senior FAO official said today.

“Achieving a sustainable increase in rice productivity will be a challenge in the years to come due to aggravating constraints in production such as shortages of water, land and labor, and the adverse effects of climate change and environmental problems,” said Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative. “Hybrid Rice (HR) technology is one of several options to counteract that challenge.”

Konuma made the remarks in Bangkok at the “Regional Expert Consultation on Hybrid Rice Development in Asia: Assessment of Limitations and Potential,” jointly organized by FAO and The Asia & Pacific Seed Association (APSA). Some 70 representatives from 14 countries in Asia are participating, drawn from both the public and private sectors.

Other speakers included Avtar Singh Dhindsa, President of APSA and Chanpithya Shimphalee, Director General of the Rice Department, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Thailand.

Rice production is critical to food security and culture of most countries in Asia, a region producing and consuming some 90 percent of the world totals.

“Hybrid Rice was first planted in China 40 years ago and has occupied more than 15 million hectares, or nearly 60 percent of the total rice area of the country,” Konuma said. “The success of HR in China is historical and phenomenal as it has provided farmers with 20 to 30 percent higher yields on average and saved five million hectares of rice land for farm diversification and created additional rural employment.”

“In China, a new breakthrough of hybrid rice varieties called ‘super hybrid rice,’ which could yield more than 13 tons per hectare have been reported,” Konuma added. Improved hybrids have also been developed by other countries and the International Rice Research Institute.

Konuma noted that while China has experienced very good results with HR, other rice producing countries have been slow to follow suit and, while there are challenges, opportunities are being missed.

India, Viet Nam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Philippines, Pakistan and Myanmar have 4.5 million hectares of HR in total, occupying a small percentage of the overall rice area in each country.

“In many countries there has been a pressing need to increase rice production either for self-sufficiency or for export enhancement,” Konuma said. “In the backdrop of the present status, emerging technology and policy developments are expected to offer new opportunities for HR adoption in both China and other countries.”

Konuma expected that the increasingly active involvement of the private sector would create viability for HR seed production and supply to enable the expansion of HR planting. He emphasized the importance of sustainable hybrid rice development with a focus to benefit smallholder farmers.

The regional consultation is expected to identify key components and priorities of the sustainable hybrid rice strategy in Asia and Pacific for its finalization.

FAO’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, in collaboration with member countries has developed a Regional Rice Strategy which was endorsed in March 2014 as a way to move toward sustainable food security in Asia and the Pacific. The strategy is designed to set up guidelines and re-orient the regional rice sector in order to help provide the region with food security, a better-nourished populous and deliver greater prosperity to rice farmers.

ENDS

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