Rice as a cereal grain makes up the major portion of staple diet consumed globally. Since a large portion of maize crops are grown for purposes other than human consumption, rice is the most important grain with regard to human nutrition and caloric intake, providing more than one fifth of the calories consumed worldwide by humans.
Genetic evidence has shown the origin of rice in the Pearl River Valley region of China, some 8,200-13,500 years ago. From East Asia, rice spread to Southeast and South Asia. Rice was introduced to Europe through Western Asia and to the Americans through Europeans when they colonized the American continent.
Rice cultivation is suitable in areas with humid climate and high rates of rainfall as it requires abundant amount of water. Rice cultivation is a labor-intensive job therefore it is often cultivated in areas with low labor cost. Traditionally rice was cultivated by flooding the fields while, or after setting the young seedlings. This method does require proper planning and servicing of water damming and channeling but it decreases the growth of weeds and pests which have no submerged growth state.
Over the years the cultivation of rice has been affected due to various technological, industrial and environmental factors. A study conducted in 2010 has shown that rice yield growth rates have decreased in many parts of Asia due to increased temperatures and decreasing solar radiation during the later years of the 20th century.The yield rate has fallen 10-20% at some locations.
Rice Production and Export around the globe
It is a fact that there are over 40, 000 different types of rice that are produced in different parts of the world today. Rice remains the leading, staple food crop which is consumed globally. Among the top, leading producers and exporters of the crop in the world today are China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Vietnam.
It is important to note that rice crops require certain specific climatic requirements for ideal growth which can only be fulfilled at certain placed on earth. It is for this reason that only a few regions across the globe have ranked top among the rest as the top producers of rice globally.
Because of its ideal climatic conditions, rice growing environments and agricultural knowledge, China is still the top producer of rice around the globe. Based on the statistics collected for the year 2009, China alone produced about 197 million tons of rice. Rice remains a staple diet for people across China and is widely consumed throughout the country. The commodity is also exported out of the country due to its excellent quality of production and the fact that it is produced in excessive quantity and can cater to the needs of the international market as well. India is the second largest producer of rice in the world.
Based on the survey and data accumulated for the year 2009, India was responsible for producing 131 million tons of rice. Similar to the people of China, Indians also widely consume rice as staple diet and use it in a variety of dishes. India is an agricultural country and has been bestowed with fertile plains and ideal climatic conditions. The waterlogged areas of the country provide offer perfect conditions for the growth of rice crops in massive quantity which is then distributed throughout the country and exported as well. Indian Basmati rice is popular globally as one of the best quality rice used in cooking.
The country that ranks third in rice production around the world is Indonesia. According the rice production survey of 2009, Indonesia produced 64 million tons of rice alone.China, India and Indonesia thus have the most productive farmers and the most ideal climatic conditions required for the production of rice. These three countries are responsible for exporting rice all over the world and help their economy flourish through their agricultural produce.
Among countries that are also involved in the active production of rice globally include Bangladesh, which also has some of the most fertile plains and highly skilled farmers (along with an impressive 50 million ton production rate for the year 2009), Vietnam, Thailand, Burma, Philippines, Brazil, Pakistan, Cambodia, Japan, South Korea, United States of America, Egypt, Iran, Sri Lanka,Madagascar and Nigeria.
It can be seen from the information provided above that the leading continent involved in the production of high quality rice is Asia primarily the South East and Far East Asian regions. Other continents include Africa and America.
It is important to note that the presence of fertile plains and ideal climatic conditions alone is not enough for the production of high quality rice. It is essential for the farmers to be equipped with the right amount of knowledge regarding the plantation of crops, the correct seasons, the crop requirements etc in order to produce rice that is worthy of being exported to other parts of the world and being able to support the economy of a particular country.
China is currently equipped with the latest in terms of knowledge, expertise and technology in farming and agriculture. Even through India is the second largest producer of rice in the world, the lack of adequate technology and knowledge does not allow the farmers in that part to generate as much revenue to produce as much rice as they actually possess the capacity to. It is an established fact that if India brings itself up to date with the knowledge and expertise in farming and agriculture that China currently possesses, it may equal or even surpass China’s rice production in the coming years and become the leading producer of the crop in the world. Some of the leading causes of inadequate rice grain production in agricultural countries around the world include ineffective measures against pests, post harvest losses, poor transportation, inadequate technology, poor supply chain management, and overall ineffective and inefficient infrastructure.
In terms of pure dollar value, the top exporters of Rice are – India, Thailand, Viet Nam, United States of America, Pakistan, Italy, Uruguay, Brazil, Australia, Argentina, China, Belgium and Spain. (Refer graphs below)
A list of reliable rice growers and manufacturers grouped by country of origin can be accessed here.
Classification of Rice Varieties
The most extensive collection of rice cultivars is present at the International Rice Research Institute located in Philippines. This research institute is home to more than 100,000 forms of rice collected from all over the world. The basic method of classifying rice cultivars is based on shape and texture of the grains. Though typically there are only four main types of rice namely Indica, aromatic, glutinous and Japonia, there are numerous varieties of rice which are present at the research center, and are being used in cooking in different parts of the world today have been enlisted as follows:
- Indica Rice : Indica Rice is grown in different parts of Asia and appears to be normal white rice of long grains having smooth texture, ideal for cooking.
- Japonica Rice : Japonica Rice is primarily grown in South East Asia and is ideally used to complement sea food and sushi. The rice is short grained and sticky in nature. Mostly preferred in Japanese and oriental cuisine, this particular kind of rice may be rather tricky to cook.
- Aromatic Rice : Aromatic rice is typically long grained rice and has a distinct nut like taste and aroma to it. Some of the popular kinds of aromatic rice include jasmine rice, wild pecan rice, wehani rice etc. Aromatic rice has a fluffy texture when fully cooked and these grains are produced in different parts of the world including United Stated of America, India, Thailand, Vietnam and Korea.
- Jasmine Rice : Jasmine Rice is mostly produced on the plains of Thailand. This is a type of long grained, aromatic rice which is easy to cook and contains very little amylopectin.
- Mochi Rice : Mochi Rice is grown in Japan and is characterized by its short grains and sticky texture.
- Glutinous Rice : Glutinous rice is also known as Chinese rice, grown typically on the plains of China. This type of rice too is short grained, similar to Japanese rice, and has a sticky texture.
- Basmati Rice : Basmati Rice is a specialty of India, typically Northern plains and Pakistan. This high quality rice is exported all over the world. Basmati rice is a type of aromatic, long grained rice.
- Patna Rice : Patna Rice is produced in South India and comprises of both medium and long grains.
- Sona Masuri Rice : Sona Masuri Rice is also produced in India and comprises of short grains.
- Ponni Rice : Ponni Rice is grown along the Kaveri River delta regions of India.
- Ambemohar Rice : Grown specifically in Maharashtra, this type of rice is short grained and has a distinct mango blossom fragrance.
- Texmati Rice : Texmati is a hybrid cultivar which is grown in the United Stated of America and is known for a smell that closely resembles that of pop corn.
- Red/Black Rice : Red and Black Rice are basically grown in Indonesia.
- Valencia Rice : Grown and mainly used in Spain, this rice is short to medium grained.
- Arborio Rice : Arborio Rice is cultivated in Italy and comprises of short, thick grains. It is used to make one of the most popular Italian dishes – Risotto.
Who are the big Rice Consumers, Buyers or Importers
As of today, China is the world’s biggest consumer of rice. After decades of near self-sufficiency in rice, China is now importing rice increasingly due to many reasons like high production costs, shortfall in production and low international rice prices. Also, rising concerns over the safety of domestically produced rice make imported rice more attractive. A study argued that as much as10% of rice sold in China is contaminated and unfit for consumption. According to the USDA report, China imported around 540,000 tons of rice in 2011, but rice imports surged to around 1.8 million tons in 2012, and are estimated to reach around 2.9 million tons in 2013. By the year 2014, China is expected to be the world’s largest importer of rice, importing even more of what it is now.
With the second most consumption, India consumes about only a little less than China making it the second biggest consumer of rice in the world. Although India is a very large producer of rice as well, it lacks the latest technology and expertise for cultivation. So a large part of rice is imported from different countries like China, as it is certainly one of the most important food crops of India in terms of both the area, production and consumer preference. India crossed the mark of 100 million tons in the year 2011-12 and it only continues to grow in terms of consumption.
Indonesia is considered a very big consumer of rice after India, followed by Bangladesh, Vietnam, Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand, Japan and Brazil. Indonesia’s rice consumption in 2010 was more than 139 kilograms per capita per year and is among the highest in the world. It is estimated that Indonesia will need 38% more rice in the next 25 years, which means it will need extra tons in the coming years to fill the gap. As the consumption of rice increases day by day here, Indonesia has recognized the importance of research and technology in the field of agriculture which will help it to sustain self sufficiency in the coming months and years and cater to its large number of rice consumers.
Bangladesh is the sixth world’s largest producer of rice. However, with recent natural disasters, market failures and socioeconomic disturbances, Bangladesh faces challenges of hunger rise and food security due to low rice production and loss of crops. As the population increases, rice consumption has also increased enforcing the need to import more and more rice to meet the consumer demand.
In Japan, although rice production is favored due to good weather conditions, the downward trend in rice consumption (estimated at around 8.25 million tons in 2012) is likely to continue due to an aging population and growing share of wheat in the Japanese diet. However, Japanese remain committed to import tons of rice to fulfill the consumer demand of the rest of the vast young population.
In Thailand, rice is economically as well as agriculture wise very important due to its exportation to many countries across the globe. Within Thailand itself rice consumption is high among people, increasing the need to also import rice from other places.
Vietnam, Brazil, Philippines and Myanmar are also counted among the biggest consumers of rice. With an ever increasing population and change in diet patterns in many people, rice is being largely consumed indicating the need for more and more production. Many countries are also investing on agriculture knowledge and technology to meet the needs of rice consumers.
In terms of pure dollar value, the biggest Rice importers are – Nigeria, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Iraq, United States of America, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Malaysia and United Kingdom. (Refer graphs below)
Technology and Hybrids
With better technology and advancements in the field of agricultural development, scientists are working towards introducing more and more rice hybrids using existing species and forms of the crops from all over the world. For instance, rice crops which were ideal for cultivation in the harsh and dry conditions of Africa have been introduced by the name of NERICA, or the New Rice For Africa, which are proven high yield cultivars.
There is another technology which is relatively new and is known as GMO, or Genetically Modified Organisms. Some of the other qualities that have been induced in rice crops through GMO technology include:
- Resistance to Herbicides
- Resistance to Pests
- Better size of grains
- Better Quality and overall texture of the rice grains
- A better nutritional value of the rice grains
- Enhanced flavor or aroma of the rice
- Production of human Protein
A look at some Import/Export and Trading data for Rice around the world