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Rice Production by Southeast Asia Countries and The Challenges
ECONOMY Beyond

Rice Production by Southeast Asia Countries and The Challenges

40% of the world's rice exports come from Southeast Asia, a significant rice-producing region with high levels of domestic consumption. Over the past 50 years, rice output in Southeast Asia has increased significantly, largely due to improvements in average yield and cropping intensity (the number of crops cultivated on a given plot of land in a given year).

Because of this, the rice systems in the river basins and deltas of this area today produce a sizable and consistent surplus of rice that not only meets local need but also makes a significant contribution to the world's food supply.

As a whole, the region produces and exports 26% and 40% of the world's rice, respectively, and is a significant source of rice for places like Africa and the Middle East.

Southeast Asia will continue to be essential in securing the world rice supply given the expected 30% growth in rice consumption by 2050, the rise in rice trade, and the limited potential for a rice surplus in other major rice-producing nations (such as China and India).

Rice is crucial to Southeast Asia's effort to eradicate hunger and malnutrition. Since 50% of the region's population's daily caloric intake comes from rice, it is by far the most significant staple food. Nearly 30% of the world's rice yield, or 48 million acres, is grown in this region. In 2018, 220 million tons of rice were produced. The top three exporters of rice worldwide include Vietnam and Thailand.

To meet SDG2 by 2030, the area must collaborate to solve numerous interconnected issues, including poverty, food security and nutrition, urbanization, biodiversity loss, water shortages, and social inequality. Due to unpredictable weather patterns, floods, droughts, and other natural calamities, climate change has a negative impact on agriculture and food systems.

Urbanization frequently results in decreased agricultural labor in rural areas and altered dietary requirements. In addition to the dwindling importance of agriculture to the local economy, more and more young people choose to pursue more opulent careers in cities.

10.3% of the region's GDP comes from agriculture, compared to 33% from services and manufacturing. Agriculture will need to adapt to all of these developments in the future.

Southeast Asian rice systems have faced a number of difficulties since the turn of the millennium. First, despite previous predictions from global equilibrium models on food supply and demand that the per-capita demand for rice would abruptly decline9, we now know that this parameter will remain largely unchanged.

Thus, due to population growth alone, Southeast Asia's need for rice will rise by almost 18% by 2050. Second, the region's two most populous nations—Indonesia and the Philippines—which together have a combined population of around 380 million—rely on imports of rice to supply domestic demand.

Third, there is no sign of yield stagnation in four of the six major rice-producing countries in Southeast Asia after several decades of steadily rising average rice yields (Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam).

Finally, the area used for harvesting rice has recently been stable or even slightly declining in several nations, and it is increasingly in danger of being converted for residential and industrial uses. A lack of irrigation infrastructure investments, physical and economic water shortages, and environmental concerns make the extension of rice-irrigated land improbable.

Furthermore, since two and sometimes three rice crops are already farmed in the majority of the rice systems in the region, there is little room for further increasing cropping intensity. Even with the best varieties and technology currently available, it has been shown that rice yields can be maintained in such intensive monoculture systems but that it is exceedingly challenging to increase them.

Source: Nature.com, IRRI.org 

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