Recent interest in “land grabs” or the international acquisition of land to produce rice is sparked by a looming threat of inadequate rice supplies.
“To put it simply, there is not enough rice to feed the world,” says Dr. Robert Zeigler, director general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
“To meet the need and keep rice prices around US$300 a ton – which allows poor rice farmers to make some profit yet keeps rice affordable for poor rice consumers – we need to produce an additional 8–10 million tons of rice more than in the previous year for the next twenty years.”
Many countries do not have the capacity to grow enough rice on their own land to meet existing or anticipated demand. To meet their needs governments or the private sector import rice and some are exploring ways to invest in rice production or rice-growing land in other countries.
IRRI is not involved in any projects on land acquisition for rice production, nor does it provide advice on land acquisition, but it does find ways to help increase the overall rice supply – with a mandate to help poor rice farmers and consumers and improve environmental health.
“IRRI’s primary focus is on helping farmers increase the productivity of rice farms on existing rainfed and irrigated land and do it in a sustainable manner,” says Dr. Zeigler. “Expanding rice-growing areas into previously uncultivated areas is considered a last option and this must be done with great care.”
As a nonprofit and independent organization, IRRI shares its scientific solutions and knowledge broadly with a range of different stakeholders, including farmers, and across the public and private sector. By doing this, IRRI contributes to improving rice production and the welfare of rice farmers in the broadest possible way, giving farmers more options to choose from.
Dr. Zeigler acknowledges that “many developing countries would benefit from financial investment in their rice industry to help them develop in a sustainable way, reach their potential, and benefit local rice farmers and consumers.”
“For IRRI, the most important thing about rice production, whether it is supported by international investors or not, is that it delivers benefits to poor rice farmers and consumers to help lift them out of poverty and that the health of the environment is maintained or improved,” he added.
IRRI supports the proposed code of practice for international land acquisition for food production, including rice, recommended by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), which calls for
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