Forum on ASEAN rice farming opens

Thursday, Oct 15, 2015 08:22

The key to overcoming the challenges lies in adopting technologies and innovations in rice farming to increase yields and effectiveness. — VNA/VNS Photo Ngoc Ha

HCM CITY (Biz Hub) — Strengthening public-private partnerships and adopting new technologies have been identified as the two key solutions for addressing the current challenges facing rice farming in Southeast Asia at the ASEAN Rice Future Forum that opened yesterday in HCM City.

The three-day forum heard that this year is a difficult year for agriculture and rice farming, and public-private partnerships are essential for encouraging adoption of farming technologies to increase yields and efficiency.

"Rice is a truly global crop and a cornerstone of agriculture in Asia," the forum, which has attracted around 100 policy makers and rice experts from ASEAN member countries, heard.

The region accounts for 25 per cent of the global rice output and 22 per cent of consumption. Viet Nam and Thailand are the key exporting countries, accounting for nearly 50 per cent of global shipments, while at the other end of the spectrum, countries like Indonesia and the Philippines are striving for self-sufficiency in rice production and are the top importers in the region.

Rice farming in the region is however now being impacted by global trends like population growth, hunger and poverty, technology gap, labour shortage, and climate change.

According to the United Nations, the world's population will grow to 9.7 billion by 2050.

But due to a rising middle class and a shift in dietary preferences, especially in emerging countries, the projected nearly 10 billion people could eat as much food as required for an astounding 13 billion people.

The International Rice Research Institute reported that the current rice production – at over 700 million tonnes annually – will not be sufficient to meet demand.

The production would need to rise by 80 million tonnes in the next decade, it said.

Limited arable land and natural resources are other challenges.

Small farmers need to become larger because with a very small piece of land, of less than a hectare, they would never be able to adopt good technologies or get a good income, Bas Bouman, director of the institute's Global Rice Science Partnership, said.

Dr Sascha Israel, Head Region Asia Pacific at Bayer CropScience, said, "agriculture is exposed to plenty of challenges like climate change, a shortage or rising costs of labour, increased market volatility, limits to credit availability for smallholder farmers, resistance issues and an ongoing quest for future sustainability."

In 2015-16 ASEAN rice farmers face uncertainties, according to Dr Israel.

The most severe El Nino in the last 17 years is causing massive droughts in the region and rice export prices are staying low despite a declining stock-to-use ratio, and future rice subsidies and water levels are also uncertain.

The key to overcoming the challenges lies in adopting technologies and innovations in rice farming to increase yields and effectiveness.

With higher-quality products, farmer can more easily negotiate with millers and traders and find market access to earn higher incomes.

Experts said public-private partnerships would play an important role in the rice value chain, especially in addressing the challenges because they are too big for single stake holders to address them efficiently.

If only the Government or a fertiliser company or a rice miller goes at these challenges, it would be very difficult to provide the right set of solutions. From the point of view of food security and GDP, the Government is certainly a very important stake holder, Dr Israel said.

The 2015 ASEAN Rice Future Forum is being organised by Bayer CropScience in partnership with the International Rice Research Institute and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Today and tomorrow will feature more sessions and lectures about helping farmers adopt technology and private-public partnerships lessons from regional countries. — VNS

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