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  • Rice is a type of grass (genus Oryza) that belongs to a family of plants that includes other cereals such as
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    Rice as a plant

  • Rice is the most important human food crop in the world, directly feeding more people than any other crop. In 2012,
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    Rice as a crop

  • Cultivating rice is the – and source of income – for millions of households around the globe. Rice is grown in more than
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    Rice as commodity

  • Rice is the most important food crop of the developing world and the staple food of more than half of the
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    Rice as food

  • Challenges


    For every one billion people added to the world’s population, 100 million more tons of rice need to be produced each year. But the challenges facing rice production are great. Read More
  • Culture


    Rice is a central part of many cultures – some countries even credit rice cultivation with the development of their civilization. It is remarkable that almost every culture has its own way of harvesting, processing and eating rice and these different traditions are, in fact, part of the world's cultural heritage. Read More
  • Rice around the world

    Rice around the world

    Following are detailed descriptions of selected rice-producing countries in rice regions (Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean [LAC], Africa, North America, and Europe). Of the top 10 countries in the world during 2005-09, nine are in Asia, in order: China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Philippines, and Japan. Completing the top 10 Asian countries is Cambodia. Read More

General information 

  • GNI per capita at PPP$, 2010: 1,950
  • Internal renewable water resources, 2011:  1,003 km3/year
  • Incoming water flow, 2011: 165 km3/year
  • Main food consumed, 2009: rice, vegetables, fish, fruits, meat, pulses, oil crops, sugar
  • Rice consumption, 2009: 140.8  kg milled rice per person per year

Production seasons





Write-up taken from the IRRI's Rice Almanac (2013):

Recent developments in the rice sector 

Myanmar is the world’s sixth-largest rice-producing country. Rice is the country’s most important crop and is grown on over 8 million ha, or more than half of its arable land. The country’s rice production increased from around 18 million t of milled rice in 1995 to over 22 million t in 2010. Some area expansion and yield increase accounted for the improved rice production. However, it will be some years before the country can regain its former position as one of the world’s largest rice exporters. Myanmar’s rice exports dropped from about 0.4 million t in 1995 to 0.12 million t in 2010. The country has been importing about 0.02 million t annually in recent years.

In spite of a decreasing use of fertilizer, rice production grew at 3% per year in 2005-10. Modern varieties are cultivated extensively but, because lower amounts of inputs (e.g., fertilizer and herbicide) are applied, farmers are not achieving the yield potential of these modern varieties. Rice yield rose to 4.1 t/ha in 2010 from about 3 t/ha in 1995 and yield growth was 1.9% per year in 2005-10. Rice yield reached 4 t/ha in 2008 and the stagnation since then could be due to the lower amount of fertilizer applied by rice farmers. 

Rice remains the staple food in Myanmar. The country’s annual per capita rice consumption declined slightly from 170 kg in 1995 to 141 kg in 2009, but total rice consumption increased by more than 60% in the same period, due to the surge in population size. Parallel to the small drop in per capita rice consumption, caloric intake per person from rice declined from 68.4% (1,451 kcal) per day in 1995 to 48.3% (1,204 kcal) in 2009, while the share from other crops increased from 23.7% per day to 34.3% per day in the same period; daily protein intake per capita from rice fell sharply from 63.6% to 34.5%. 

 In January 2010, there was a major reorganization in Myanmar’s domestic rice industry. The Myanmar Rice Industry Association (MRIA) was established by the country’s leading rice producers, traders, and exporters from three separate organizations3 that joined forces to make Myanmar’s rice industry more competitive with rival countries such as Thailand and Vietnam. 

To further enhance production, the government provides credit programs for low-income farmers in the Mandalay region. Similarly, the government encourages private companies to provide microfinance to rice farmers to buy rice seeds and other agricultural inputs.

Rice environments

The rice ecosystems of Myanmar include irrigated lowland, rainfed lowland (including late-sown and Mayin area), deepwater, and upland. Late-sown rainfed lowland is the area sown during the monsoon period; Mayin rice can be transplanted only after the monsoon when floodwater recedes. 

Rainfed lowland (the largest of the ecosystems) and deepwater rice are confined to the delta region and coastal strip of Rakhine State. Nearly 60% of the delta region, including the Ayeyarwady, Bago, and Yangon region of Lower Myanmar, is cultivated with rainfed rice. Because of rainfall and hydrologic patterns, irrigation is critical in Myanmar’s central dry zone, whereas, in the delta, there is more concern about drainage and flood protection. The country’s upland area is mostly in Mandalay, Sagaing, and Shan states. Some upland area in Shan State occupies sloping land, which becomes cold in the northern winter.

Fertilizer use in Myanmar is decreasing and notably very low. On average, farmers applied only 5 kg NPK per ha of arable land in 2009, which was about a quarter of the amount applied in 1995. This indicates a much lower level for rice.

Rice production constraints

Insufficient capital due to limited access to formal sources of credit forces farmers to apply less farm inputs, particularly fertilizer, which makes their rice crop less productive.

Inadequate infrastructure (e.g., irrigation, farm-to-market roads) and postproduction facilities (e.g., mills, storage) hinder growth in rice production. The lack of better farm-to- market roads causes rice farmers to incur higher transportation costs for their produce. Products have to cross the Thai border and pass along the Ayeyarwady River. The railroads are very old, with very few repairs made since construction in the 1800s. Most highways are unpaved except in major cities. Grain quality is affected by he country’s simple storage facilities and antiquated mills. As a result, rice farmers in Myanmar are getting only 30% of the export price of rice received by their counterparts in other Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam for their better quality rice.

Rice production opportunities

Rice yield can be further improved with the use of more inputs, especially fertilizer. A provision of credit facilities would enable farmers to buy the inputs needed to achieve higher yield/production. Adequate irrigation facilities are required for a steady supply of water, rather than depending solely on erratic rainfall in the central plain or dry areas. Better rice mills, storage facilities, and farm-to-market roads would ensure high-quality milled rice for export, a premium price, and lower transportation costs for farmers’ produce. These would result in improved income for farmers, giving them incentives to continue rice farming. 

The following set of  interventions would improve the country’s agricultural economy: (1) increase access to credit for farmers, traders, and millers; (2) increase the farm-gate price of paddy in order to encourage farmers to produce more paddy; and (3) provide finance for small-scale village infrastructure projects to increase demand for wage labor for the rural poor.

Sources: FAO’s FAOSTAT database online and AQUASTAT database online, as of September 2012.

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General information

  • GNI per capita at PPP$, 2011: 3,250
  • Internal renewable water resources, 2011: 359.4 km3/year
  • Incoming water flow, 2011: 524.7 km3/year
  • Main food consumed, 2009: rice, vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, starchy roots, wheat, sugar and sweeteners 
  • Rice consumption, 2009: 141.2 kg milled rice per person per year

Production seasons





Write-up taken from the IRRI's Rice Almanac (2013):

Vietnam is located along the eastern margin of the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia, covering an area of 331,051 km². It is bounded by Cambodia, Laos, China, and the South China Sea. 

Over 30% of the country is forested and about 17% is cultivated for seasonal crops, with another 5% under permanent crops. Climate varies from humid tropical in the southern lowlands to temperate in the northern highlands. There are two monsoon seasons: the northeastern winter monsoon and the southwestern summer monsoon. Destructive typhoons sometimes develop over the South China Sea during hot weather. Mean annual sea level temperatures range from 27 °C in the south to 21 °C in the extreme north. 

Mean annual rainfall ranges from 1,300 to 2,300 mm. Rainfall is usually evenly distributed through June to October or November. In the Mekong Delta, the summer monsoon brings 5–6 months of rainfall above 100 mm/month. October is the wettest month of the year. 

The population of Vietnam was about 87 million in 2010, with an average density of 263 people per km2. The population grew at 1.1% per year during 2005-10. Seventy percent of the population lives in rural areas, mainly in the two rice-growing deltas: the Red River Delta in the north and the Mekong River Delta in the south. The Red River Delta’s population density (939/km²) was higher than that of the Mekong River Delta’s (426/km²) and elsewhere. The country’s total labor force was above 47 million, with more than half engaged in agriculture. 

The economy continues to improve, although agriculture’s share of economic output (GDP) dropped from about 25% in 2000 to almost 21% in 2010, as the share of the industrial sector surged to 41% and the service sector to 38% of GDP in the same period.

The country’s primary produce is rice, coffee, rubber, cotton, tea, pepper, soybeans, cashews, sugarcane, peanuts, bananas, fish, seafood, and poultry.

Recent developments in the rice sector

Vietnam is the world’s fifth-largest rice-producing country. Rice production has continuously increased, from 25 million t in 1995 to almost 40 million t in 2010. This increase can be attributed to some expansion of rice harvested area and higher yield. Rice yield improved to 5.3 t/ha in 2010 from 3.7 t/ha in 1995. The use of input-responsive modern varieties, sufficient fertilizer, and an increase in the proportion of rice area (93.4%) under irrigation account for the high yields in recent years. Although the rice area harvested expanded from 6.8 million ha in 1995 to 7.5 million ha in 2010, annual growth was only 0.5% from 2005 to 2010. 

Rice remains the staple food. Average annual per capita consumption rose to 141.2 kg in 2009 from 138.8 kg in 1995. However, the share of total calories per person obtained from rice decreased to 51.7% (1,390 kcal) per day in 2009 from 66.6% (1,407 kcal) per day in 1995. Similarly, the per capita protein intake from rice fell to 38% (28.3 g) per day in 2009 from 56.7% (28.7 g) per day in 1995. These declines are due to an increase in consumption of other sources such as wheat and meat. The shares of both wheat and meat as sources of calories and protein increased during 1995-2009.

Vietnam is one of the world’s leading rice exporters. The country’s rice exports reached 5.3 million t in 2005 and almost 6.9 million t in 2010. The decline in exports to an average 4.7 million t during 2006-08 led the head of the Ministry of Cultivation in 2009 to raise concern about the conversion of agricultural land into commercial land: too much rice land was being converted for housing projects and golf courses. He argued that, if this continued, coupled with fast-increasing population, the country would have difficulty in meeting the demand for rice exports by 2020. 

Vietnam has changed from a highly centralized planned economy to a socialist-oriented market economy that uses both directive and suggestive planning. With the country’s commitment to economic liberalization and international integration, it employed structural reforms required to modernize the economy and to create more competitive export-driven industries. Vietnam joined the World Trade Organization in January 2007, which secured the country’s link to the global market and fortified the domestic economic reform process. 

Moreover, Vietnam became an official partner in developing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement in 2010. This agreement brings together a significant number of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies under a single free trade agreement.

Present rice policies in Vietnam are a balance between maintaining domestic food security and promoting rice exports. Government intervention is limited in the domestic market and a majority of rice exports in the country are made through state-owned trading enterprises (50% share), particularly by the Vietnam Food Association (VFA). VFA buys rice from farmers to keep the price of rice stable and also to prevent rice importers from haggling for prices too low during the harvest season.

Rice environments

The Mekong River Delta produces most of Vietnam’s rice. The other rice-growing regions are the Red River Delta, northeast, and the north-central coast. The Mekong Delta has three major cropping seasons: spring or early season; autumn or midseason; and winter, long-duration wet-season crop. The largest rice area is cropped during the autumn season followed by a spring crop; only a small area is cropped in winter. Farmers in this region adopt a direct-seeding method of crop establishment to save labor costs.

Soils in the Mekong River Delta are highly variable, but alluvial, acid-sulfate, and saline soils dominate. Alluvial soils predominate in 30% of the Mekong Delta, mostly along the banks of the Tien (Mekong) and Hau (Bassac) rivers. This is the best soil in the delta, wherein 2–3 crops can be grown each year. The Red River Delta, which is densely populated, has very small landholdings and has long been practicing very intensive double-crop rice cultivation.

Rice production constraints

Rice production in Vietnam faces the following constraints:

  • Shrinkage in rice area for rice cultivation due to land conversion to commercial lands, which will result in a decrease in total rice production. 
  • Inadequate credit facilities, which limit farmers’ input use due to insufficient capital.
  • Limited access to inputs.
  • Inadequate water during summer-autumn seasons.
  • Soil degradation brought about by a long-term high cropping intensity, which could deplete soil fertility.
  • High inflation rate (about 11%), which increases input costs.
  • Small landholdings, which restrict farmers’ ability to produce rice for export.

Rice production opportunities

In spite of these production constraints, there are great opportunities to overcome them. For instance, increased development and deployment of high-yielding varieties can offset the decline in rice area due to urbanization; improved crop management technologies can possibly avert soil degradation.

Sources: FAO’s FAOSTAT database online and AQUASTAT database online, as of September 2012.

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General information

  • GNI per capita at PPP$, 2011: 1,940
  • Internal renewable water resources, 2011: 105 km3/year
  • Incoming water flow, 2011: 1,122 km3/year
  • Main food consumed, 2009: rice, potatoes, vegetables, including oil, fruits, milk, fish, wheat
  • Rice consumption, 2009: 173.3 kg milled rice per person per year

Production seasons





Write-up taken from the IRRI's Rice Almanac (2013):

Bangladesh lies in northeastern South Asia with a land mass of 144,000 km2. The country is bounded by India on the west, north, and northeast; by Myanmar on the southeast; and by the Bay of Bengal on the south.

Except for the hilly regions in the southeast and some in the northeast, and patches of highlands in the central and northwest regions, Bangladesh consists of low, flat, fertile land. About 230 rivers and their tributaries, with a total length of 24,140 km, flow across the country down to the Bay of Bengal. The alluvial soil is continuously enriched by heavy silt deposited by the rivers through frequent flooding during the rainy season.

The country enjoys a subtropical monsoon climate. Summer, monsoon, and winter are the most prominent of six distinct seasons. Winter, which is pleasant, extends from November to February, with minimum temperature ranging from 7 to 13 °C; in summer, maximum temperature ranges from 24 to 41 °C.

The monsoon starts in June and lasts until October and accounts for 80% of the total annual rainfall, which varies from 1,200 to 2,500 mm. Maximum rainfall is recorded in the coastal areas and in the northern Sylhet and Mymensingh districts, adjacent to Assam and Meghalaya, India. Minimum rainfall is observed in the districts of Jessore, Kushtia, and Rajshahi in the western parts of the country.

Bangladesh is among the most populous countries in the world. The population in 2010 was 148.7 million, nearly half of which was in rural areas. Agriculture covers 70% of the country’s land area.

Bangladesh has a rapidly developing market-based economy, which has grown at 6–7% per annum over the past few years. The service sector generated more than half of the country’s GDP, while nearly half of the people are engaged in the agricultural sector. Foreign exchange earnings come from remittances from overseas workers (mainly in the Middle East) and exports of garments and textiles. Shipbuilding and cane cultivation also contribute significantly to growth. Sound fiscal policies further encourage GDP growth. The per capita GDP (PPP) more than doubled, from $675 in 1995 to $1,652, in 2010.

The main produce is rice, along with jute, fish, fruits, and vegetables. Wheat production has increased in recent years. The poultry industry is expanding and has encouraged maize production. Other goods produced in the country are textiles, leather and leather goods, ceramics, and ready-made garments.

Recent developments in the rice sector

Bangladesh is the fourth-largest rice producer. In spite of the decline in the country’s arable land since its independence in 1971, the rice area harvested increased from almost 10 million ha in 1995 to nearly 12 million ha in 2010. Rice yield also improved in the last decade, from a low of 2.7 t/ha in 1995 to almost 4.3 t/ha in 2010. These increases in rice yield and area harvested contributed to growth in rice production, which nearly doubled from over 26 million t in 1995 to 50 million t in 2010.

Rice is the staple food of Bangladesh’s 149 million people. Average annual milled rice consumption was 173.3 kg in 2009. The daily per capita calorie intake from rice has been falling, from 74.8% of total calories in 1995 to 69.6% in 2009. Rice’s contribution to per capita protein intake also fell, from 65.3% to 56.2%, in the same period.

Bangladesh has been increasing rice production over many years and is now relatively self-sufficient in rice production. The country’s rice imports declined from about 1 million t in 1995 to a mere 0.017 million t in 2009 but increased to 0.66 million t in 2010. Exports of rice began in the 2000s. Some rice is still imported, however, mainly to control domestic prices. Major rice policies have been implemented by the government to increase production and to reduce imports. Subsidy support for rice producers is provided on different agricultural inputs to keep their price within the purchasing capacity of the rice farmers. In 2010, the equivalent of $712 million was disbursed for subsidy assistance. The government provided cash subsidies to small and marginal farmers through an input distribution card that could be used to obtain cash subsidies for electricity and fuel for irrigation, fertilizer, and other forms of government support.

The government has attempted to stabilize rice prices through open market sales since 2004. This was established when the cost of food in Bangladesh began to increase sharply as a result of global price increases. This allowed people to buy rice at reduced prices from thousands of centers in district towns and union-level dealers across the country.

Rice environments

The major rice ecosystems in Bangladesh are upland (direct-seeded premonsoon aus), irrigated (mainly dry-season boro), rainfed lowland (mostly monsoon-season transplanted aman, 0–50 cm), medium-deep stagnant water (50–100 cm), deepwater (>100 cm), tidal saline, and tidal nonsaline. Bangladesh receives about 400 mm of rain during the premonsoon months of March to May, which enable farmers to grow a short-duration drought-resistant crop.

Rice area in Bangladesh expanded slightly during 2001-10; however, rice area under irrigation increased from about 30% to 73% from 1995 to 2008. During the same period, its share under modern varieties also increased from 52% to almost 80%. Two flash-flood-resistant varieties, BRRI dhan51 (Swarna-Sub1) and BRRI dhan52 (BR11-Sub-1) for submergence-prone areas; and an early-maturing variety, BINA Dhan7, were released. BRRI dhan51 was developed in 2004 when IRRI scientists implanted a submergence resistance gene in a popular high-yielding Indian rice variety. This variety has become very popular in submergence-prone areas in the country. The high-yielding rice variety BINA Dhan7 can be harvested a month earlier than other rice varieties and, hence, can avoid drought stress. This variety has high quality so it can command higher grain prices. Farmers can also get a better price for rice straw because feed is in shortage when this variety is harvested.

The urea deep placement (UDP) technology, an option for increasing nitrogen-use efficiency, involves the placement of 1–3 urea supergranules or briquettes at 7–10-cm soil depth a week after transplanting. In 2008-09, the Bangladesh Department of Agricultural Extension (with IFDC assistance) disseminated UDP technology to 0.5 million ha and achieved an annual increase in rice production of about 0.3 million t. UDP use reduced Bangladesh’s urea imports by 0.05 million t in 2008.

Production constraints

Bangladesh has almost attained self-sufficiency in rice. However, sustaining this level in the coming years may be difficult considering that the country’s population continues to rise ominously and rice production growth has to be achieved with fewer resources (e.g., land and water).

Sustainability is always a problem where intensified cropping systems are followed and crop residues are removed for fuel and feed. Cow dung, a traditional source of fertilizer, is being used as fuel in rural areas. The spread of modern rice varieties is associated with an increased use of chemical fertilizer. However, the removal of fertilizer subsidies in the late 1980s caused imbalances in fertilizer use, wherein there was excessive consumption of N and less P due to unfavorable prices of largely imported P and K. The increased cost of fertilizer, chemicals, and fuel accounted for the high costs of rice production in Bangladesh relative to other Asian rice producers (e.g., India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam).

Drought is a common problem although the northwestern region of the country is more prone to it than elsewhere. Farmers deal with drought through supplemental irrigation during the late monsoon. Subsurface groundwater is available throughout the country. Irrigation by small-scale tube wells and low-lift pumps commenced in the late 1970s and spread extensively when the importation of agricultural machinery was liberalized in the late 1980s. Overexploitation of groundwater, however, is becoming an environmental concern with adverse effects on the supply of drinking water; there are suspected links to arsenic-contaminated water.

Although flooding occurs yearly, it causes severe damage only about once every 10 years. Usual flooding is merely a part of the ecosystem and helps maintain soil quality. The flood-prone areas are mainly suited for boro rice, since water is available during the dry season and the cost of irrigation is low.

Soils in coastal areas are affected by salinity. Most soils are low in organic matter (many less than 0.5%) and subsequently low in N. Zinc and sulfur deficiencies are prevalent; replacement amounts of P and K are inadequate.

Production opportunities

Targeted breeding works well in Bangladesh’s diverse environments. The development of more high-yielding, different maturity period, drought-tolerant, salt-tolerant, disease-resistant, submergence-resistant, and possibly nutrient-rich varieties will further boost rice production and nutrition. Effective fertilizer and other crop management strategies will likewise enhance rice production. Hence, the government should increase investment in rice research and extension to further improve yield and reduce the costs of rice production in the long run. Providing a subsidy to reduce the cost of groundwater irrigation will encourage risk-averse and resource-poor farmers to continue to engage in rice production.

Source: FAOSTAT, AQUASTAT database of the FAO, and national statistical sources as of September 2012.

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General information

  • GNI per capita at PPP$, 2011: 4,500
  • Internal renewable water resources, 2011: 2,019 km3
  • Incoming water flow, 2011: 0 km3/year
  • Main food consumed, 2009: rice, starchy roots, maize, vegetables, fruits, oil crops, fish, wheat
  • Rice consumption, 2009: 127.4 kg milled rice per person per year

Production seasons




Main, Java and South Sumatra
Main, Sulawesi
Main, Sumatra

Write-up taken from the IRRI's Rice Almanac (2013):

The Indonesian archipelago covers about 2,000 km from north to south and 5,000 km from east to west. There are more than 13,000 islands, including five of the world’s largest: Sumatra, Kalimantan (the Indonesian part of Borneo), Irian Jaya (western New Guinea), Sulawesi (Celebes), and Java.

Most of Indonesia has a moist tropical climate, with abundant rain and high temperatures. Annual rainfall ranges from 1,000 to more than 5,000 mm, with more than 90% of the country receiving an average rainfall of more than 1,500 mm. December through March are the months with the highest rainfall.

Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country with almost 240 million people in 2010. Because of rapid economic growth and a continuing active family planning program, population growth declined from 1.47% per annum during the late 1990s to 1.02% per annum between 2005 and 2010. The United Nations forecasts the country’s population growth rate to drop to less than 1% by 2015. The mean population density of Indonesia was 121 per km2 in 2010. Java, where nearly 60% of the population lives, is the most densely populated island in the world. The share of the population in urban areas has grown to 53.7%.

Indonesia’s economy had a huge turnaround, from a negative GDP growth of 13% and high unemployment rate of 15–20% in the aftermath of the 1997-98 financial crises to a real growth of 6.3% in 2007, and 6.5% growth in 2010. The industrial sector has the largest contribution to GDP, 47%; the service sector makes up 38%; and the agricultural sector 15%.

Indonesia is now a member of the G-20 economies. As a G-20 member, Indonesia has taken an active role in the group’s coordinated response to the global economic crisis.

The government has 141 state-owned enterprises and controls prices on several basic goods: fuel, rice, and electricity. The Ministry of National Development Planning (BAPPENAS) released a medium-term development plan targeting an average growth for the country of 6.3–6.8% for 2010–14.

Besides rice, other major crops produced in Indonesia are sugarcane, cassava, maize, sweet potato, spices, soybean, peanut, coffee, cocoa, banana, palm oil, coconut, rubber, mangoes, and oranges. The country also has an extensive variety of mineral deposits and production, including bauxite, silver, copper, nickel, gold, and coal.

Recent developments in the rice sector

Indonesia is the world’s third-largest rice producer and also one of the world’s biggest rice consumers. The country’s rice area expanded from 11.4 million ha in 1995 to 13.2 million ha in 2010, which represented 24% of the total agricultural area. Rice yield increased slightly from 4.3 t/ha in 1995 to 5 t/ha in 2010.

Rice is the most important food crop in the country. Relative to other sources, the share of per capita caloric intake from rice fell a little from 50.7% (1,260 kcal per day) to 47.6% (1,259 kcal per day) in 2009, while rice accounted for 42.9% per day of per capita protein requirements in 1995, which likewise decreased slightly to 39.6% per day in 2009.

Rice imports declined from 3.2 million t in 1995 to about 0.69 million t in 2010. There have been concerns, however, that rice imports may surge in the future due to the continuing increase in population. Annual per capita rice consumption of 127.6 kg/year in 1995 remained almost the same as in 2009 at 127.4 kg/year. IRRI estimates that Indonesia will require 38% more rice in 25 years, which means that the present average rice yield of 4.6 t/ha must increase to more than 6 t/ha to fill the gap. To avoid huge imports, most rice policies in Indonesia have been aimed at achieving rice self-sufficiency by increasing production. The government set a production target of 10 million t of annual rice surplus for 2015 and it provides fertilizer subsidies to rice farmers cultivating less than 0.5 ha of land.

Aside from the above, the Indonesian government has had two major initiatives to increase rice production:

  1. Rice transmigration scheme 2009: a revival of the Suharto-era transmigration scheme wherein large numbers of farmers from Java would be provided land on the outer islands to grow rice. In 2009, the newly appointed agriculture minister instructed the National Land Agency (BPN) to find ways to make as much as 6 million ha of suitable land available to rice farmers. (But no concrete plan had been developed or land made available as of 2012).
  2. Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) 2009: wherein the government is targeting a remote section of the province of Papua (Merauke Regency) for major commercial-scale agricultural activities, including rice, maize, sorghum, sugarcane, palm oil, timber, livestock, poultry, and fish. There is a proposed allocation of 1.2–2.5 million ha for commercial companies to produce food and energy crops with a 12-ha minimum farm size. (A land suitability study was conducted in 2008 but, as of 2010, only 500 ha of rice farms had been developed.)

A thorough review of these initiatives is needed in order to determine weaknesses/problems so that remedial measures can be applied to achieve the goals set. To ensure that prices are stabilized, Indonesia’s national logistics agency (BULOG) maintains grain stocks for the government by selling stocks when rice prices are too high or buying from farmers when prices drop below specific levels. BULOG is in charge of carrying domestic purchases of rough rice and milled rice. It is also in charge of distributing subsidized rice for poor and vulnerable people and retaining and managing the national rice reserve stock. BULOG procures around 7% of rice production and sells this at a subsidized rate.

Rice environments

Rice is grown by approximately 77% of all farmers in the country (25.9 million) under predominantly subsistence conditions. The average farm size is less than 1 ha, with the majority of the farmers cultivating landholdings of 0.1–0.5 ha. Rice production is heavily concentrated on the islands of Java and Sumatra; nearly 60% of total production emanates from Java alone. Rice is cultivated in both lowlands and uplands throughout Indonesia, with the upland crop typically being rainfed and receiving only low amounts of fertilizer. Irrigated lowland rice is both well watered and heavily fertilized. According to the Ministry of Public Works, approximately 84% of the total rice area in Indonesia in 2012 was irrigated while the remaining 16% relied on rainfall. Rice is grown year-round, with some farmers being able to grow three crops a year, but it is common to grow two rice crops a year.

Five new rice varieties were released in Indonesia in the late 2000s: Hipa-5 Ceva Hybrid, Inpago 4, Aek Sibundong, Hipa 12 SBU Hybrid, and Inpara 4. These varieties have high yield potential and/or improved resistance to pests and diseases.

Data from the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA) reveal that the country’s fertilizer consumption increased enormously from 0.14 million t in 1961 to 4.47 million t in 2009. FAO recorded that about 52% of all fertilizer use in Indonesia is for rice.

Production constraints 

Indonesia is particularly vulnerable to the vagaries of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon. In years when surface-water temperatures rise substantially in the western Pacific Ocean, signaling an El Niño event, rice production suffers a serious shortfall, with most of the effects coming from a reduction in rice area planted (as opposed to lower yields). The reduction in area occurs even in systems that are usually irrigated, as lower rainfall leads to a reduced availability of irrigation water.

In upland rice areas, erosion is a serious problem because on steep slopes the fields are neither bunded nor terraced. This can cause serious sedimentation problems in lowland irrigation systems. Alley cropping as well as terracing have been introduced in some areas to reduce these problems. Upland soils are also more weathered and leached, leading to problems of aluminum toxicity and phosphorus deficiency that combine to reduce yields. Soil acidity is serious in tidal swamps because of acid-sulfate soils. These are accompanied by iron toxicity as well as some deficiencies of phosphorus and micronutrients.

Other constraints to rice production are:

  • Annual loss of paddy land due to land conversion to nonagricultural use (commercial, industrial, urban), estimated at about 100,000 ha per year.
  • Greater population pressure on every available hectare in the major rice-growing areas and decreasing average farm size due to traditional inheritance practices.
  • Low budget for irrigation infrastructure development and repair, both centrally and provincially.
  • Inadequate capital for poor farmers.
  • Slow varietal replacement and slow uptake of high-yielding varieties.
  • Inadequate number of highly qualified and educated crop extension and pest management officers, and lack of performance incentives for government personnel who implement major agricultural programs.

Yield growth slowed by about 0.5% per year between 1990 and 2010 and this is causing great concern. Likewise, growth in rice area weakened from 2% per year in 1960-98 to less than a 0.1% increase per year in 1999-2010. Both stagnating growth trends threaten the capability of local producers to supply enough rice to domestic markets in the coming years.

Production opportunities

Indonesia has developed a cadre of researchers capable of undertaking rice research and collaborating with colleagues in other countries. The Indonesian Center for Rice Research (ICRR), formerly the Research Institute for Rice (RIR), located in Sukamandi, West Java, is the main institute conducting biophysical rice research. Some trials and assessments on rice are also conducted by the regional institute of the Assessment Institute for Agricultural Technology (AIAT) at the provincial level. The Center for Agro-Socio-Economic Research (CASER), located in Bogor, has a long tradition of conducting socioeconomic research on rice and the broad agricultural sector.

Together with all concerned institutions, the government should exert every effort to develop more rice varieties that are high-yielding, disease-resistant, and tolerant of drought and soil toxicities; and continue the development of improved nutrient management strategies.
In addition, extension personnel need to be mobilized to promote and disseminate the new varieties to prevent or overcome stagnation of rice production. Performance incentives could be given to the government’s extension staff.

Source: FAO’s FAOSTAT database online and AQUASTAT database online, as of September 2012.

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If you want to learn more, please read the Rice Almanac. You can purchase it on Kindle or download for free as a PDF.

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