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IRRI backs study to ensure rice supply in Asia

Aug 18, 2011 9:03:38 PM - www.ft.lk

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) based in Laguna is participating in research funded by Singapore to help ensure there is enough rice to meet the future demand in Asia.

IRRI said in a statement that Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF) will invest up to $8.2 million over the next five years in a new rice research program.
Singapore relies entirely on imported rice and is vulnerable to changing rice supplies and price escalations in international markets.  The National University of Singapore and Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory will thus work with IRRI on the research to address some of the most pressing concerns faced by rice farmers in Asia, especially how rice farming can become better adapted to climate change.
IRRI said the program will also seek to develop new rice varieties with built-in protection against diseases, and reduce the need for limited inputs such as water, thus increasing sustainable rice production and ensuring long-term food security.
IRRI deputy director-general for research Dr. Achim Dobermann said: “We are delighted to see Singapore stepping up as a regional leader with this investment in international rice research. We need to be thinking beyond national borders to help tackle food supply issues.”
Rice cultivation occupies about 140 million hectares in Asia, with annual production of around 600 million tonnes, according to research data.
It is a staple food for more than half the world’s population, with developing Asian countries equating food security with access to rice supplies.
Rice production faces serious constraints, however, due to global environmental changes and ever-increasing demand.
According to IRRI, the world needs to produce eight to 10 million tonnes more rice every year to ensure a reliable supply of rice and keep rice prices affordable. Investments in rice research could provide rice farmers with new rice varieties and smarter ways to grow more rice on less land to ensure and protect future rice supplies in Asia.
The project will be led by Professor Prakash Kumar from NUS’ Department of Biological Sciences and Dr. Naweed Naqvi from Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory, Singapore.
Dr. Naqvi said: “Our collaboration with IRRI will help position Singapore as a strategic partner in regional and global food security. We will now be able to link the excellent research done here in Singapore to many other rice improvement activities worldwide.”
IRRI said the project positions Singapore as an important partner in the Global Rice Science Partnership.
It is a new global strategic plan for rice research led by IRRI in partnership with some 900 organisations worldwide.