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The challenges of Rice sustainability- The Increasing World's population and Climate change

The challenges of Rice sustainability - The increasing World's population and Climate change

 

One of the main staple crops of more than half of the world’s population- rice, started getting cultivated around 10,000 years ago. There are a few natural conditions for rice cultivation and unless they are fulfilled, cultivation of rice can’t happen. Over the past few centuries, farmers have made serious efforts to increase the yield in tropical and subtropical conditions. In many countries, rice cultivation has been expanded to an industrial volume, however, various studies indicate that the per capita production of rice in the near future shall acutely fall short of the per capita consumption. This is an alarming data by which we can safely assume that half of the world’s population is endangered of its basic need for survival.

At present, about 500 million tons of rice is annually produced over approximately 160 Mha of paddy fields across the world. This amount is highly insufficient to feed the ever-growing population, particularly in Least Developed Countries and Developing Countries. The article ‘Rice Improvement Through Genome-Based Functional Analysis and Molecular Breeding in India’ published last year in the journal ‘Rice’ brought this data to the fore highlighting how Indians helped generate resources for rice improvement and to mitigate loss due to environmental stress and pathogens. We shall categorically discuss the natural and economic aspects that this issue involves.  

Natural problems:

In many developing countries, the primary source of nutrition is rice. However, malnutrition and diseases like diabetes and cancer are still a major abhorrent indicating the consequences already surfacing. If by 2030 we are unable to grow the production of rice by at least 50% we can’t meet the demand of the population growth. Another major challenge to rice production is its vulnerability to climate instability where excess rain or excess heat can hamper its cultivation. The only way to deal with this problem is carrying out specific research to find solution to such problems and developing biofortification strategies and rice breeding programs that could eventually help us meet the current and future demands of rapid population growth. Unless any directional development occurs in this area, we are likely to get insufficient to feed more than half of the world’s population by 2050.

Economic problems:

Basic economics works on the demand-supply principle and when there is no proper balance between these two yardsticks, we have seen in the past how it has collapsed major economies and markets. If rice cultivation doesn’t meet the quantum of rice demanded, then the developed countries with their economic might will assert their claim over rice; making it so expensive that developing countries in Asia and Africa will not be able to keep up with that. This will also lead to rampant malnutrition in the working class. Much like the oil lobby, there will be a rice lobby that would influence political decisions in order to generate higher amounts of profits.

Rice being a staple diet cannot be compromised on its availability to common citizens. Therefore, unless we are able to make sustainable improvement in rice cultivation and distribution patters, we shall affect the economy as well as the Public Health Index of many countries.

 



 16/07/2019  Dhanashree Shinde

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