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Key facts about rice

Around three billion people eat rice every day, and more than 60 percent of the world's one billion poorest and undernourished people who live in Asia depend on rice as their staple food David Swanson/IRIN
Rice-producing countries, farmers and scientists from around the globe have gathered in Vietnam from 8 November for the third International Rice Congress.

Held every four years, the congress is the world's largest meeting of the rice industry, which feeds more than half the world.

"Rice remains of utmost importance to the developing world, especially Asia, but increasingly Latin America and Africa, where rice is a rapidly growing food staple,” Robert Zeigler, director-general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), told IRIN.

The five-day conference, hosted by the Vietnamese government and organized by IRRI, in the capital, Hanoi, will have about 1,200 participants from more than 66 countries.

The congress comes at a crucial time as farming area is declining, the effects of climate change are being felt, and global rice consumption is growing, say experts.

Under the theme, Rice for Future Generations, the congress will focus on how science and technology can better help farmers grow rice more efficiently.

Key facts:

• Rice is the staple food for more than half the world's population, including 640 million undernourished people living in Asia.

• For every one billion people added to the world's population, an additional 100 million MT of rice needs to be produced every year.

• Rice is uniquely suited to wet environments in which other crops would not survive; hence its widespread popularity across Asia.

• Projected demand for rice will outstrip supply in the near to medium term unless something is done to reverse current trends.

• Rice consumption exceeds 100kg per person per year in many Asian countries.

• One-fifth of the world's population, more than one billion people, depend on rice cultivation for their livelihood.

• Asia, where about 90 percent of all rice is grown, has more than 200 million rice farms, most of which smaller than one hectare.

• Rice is the fastest-growing food staple in Africa and one of the most important and fastest growing staples in Latin America - both regions are net importers.

• In most of the developing world, rice availability is equated with food security and closely connected to political stability.

• The top five producers are: China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Vietnam.

• The top five exporters are: Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan, US and India.

• The top five importers are: Philippines, Iran, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

• Some 120,000 varieties of rice exist today.

• Worldwide, 80 million hectares of irrigated rice (55 percent of the total area) produce about three-quarters of rice harvested.

• Average global rice yields are around four tonnes per hectare, but yields of more than 10 tonnes a hectare have been recorded.

• It takes between 90 and 200 days for a rice crop to mature.

Source: IRRI, USDA

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