Southeast Asian rice bowl depleting fast: analysis

By: SciDev Net

Southeast Asia accounts for about 40 per cent of international rice exports but the region is also a substantial consumer of rice. The researchers note that by 2050, owing to increasing populations, there will be an 18 per cent higher demand for rice in the region.

With limited scope in other major rice-producing countries like China and India to generate a rice surplus, Southeast Asian countries with a larger yield gap must step up production to avoid the need for import in the future, the researchers say.

Rice yield stagnation has been noted in countries like Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, owing to residential and industrial encroachment on rice-growing areas with little prospect to expand irrigated paddy lands, thanks to inadequate investment and other reasons.

“Our analysis shows that Southeast Asia will not be able to produce a large rice surplus in the future if current trends continue,” says Alice Laborte, an author of the study and senior scientist at the Philippine-based International Rice Research Institute. “Failure to increase yield on existing rice area will drastically reduce the capacity of countries in the region to achieve or sustain rice self-sufficiency and export rice to other regions.”