Worrisome signs for global rice crop

MANILA, Aug 10, 2007 (AFP) – The world’s top rice expert warned here Friday of “worrisome signs,” with high prices for rice and fertiliser and stocks at their lowest levels for about 30 years. Robert Zeigler, director general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), said new farm technologies were needed to replicate the gains made from the “Green Revolution,” which had lifted hundreds of millions of rural Asians out of poverty.

“There are a number of worrisome signs suggesting that new challenges lie ahead,” he told an international rural poverty conference in the Philippine capital Manila.

“There has been a slowdown in growth in rice production as the yield gains from the adoption of the modern varieties in the irrigated areas have become almost fully exploited and the rice area is declining,” Zeigler said.

“Over the past five years, (the) international rice price has doubled and price for urea (fertiliser) tripled, the latter spurred on by the rise in oil prices.”
Zeigler said “rice stocks are their lowest level since the 1970s.”

Rice is the staple food for half the world’s population and of most of its poorest people, providing about 20 percent of direct hum