New Delhi: Rice, which rose to a record on Wednesday, will increase in importance as a source of food because the crop can be grown in different conditions and may withstand the effects of global climate change, India’s top agricultural scientist said.
“Rice is going to become more important when temperatures go up and there are more frequent droughts or more frequent floods,” said M.S. Swaminathan, the architect of India’s green revolution. “You can grow it with less water as well as in deep water.”
Countries worldwide are seeking to boost rice yields to raise output, increase food security and bring down prices.
A United Nations’ panel warned last year that rising temperatures would cause sea levels to climb and droughts and floods to occur more frequently. The changes may put hundreds of millions of people at risk as water in some parts of the world becomes scarcer and crops less reliable.
“Rice is a crop of both the present and the future,” said Swaminathan, 82, on Tuesday. The scientist, a former chief of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, is a member of the Rajya Sabha. “It is a crop which will give us some protection under conditions of climate change.”
Rice futures for May delivery on the Chicago Board of Trade, which have more than doubled in the past year, gained by as much as 2.3% to $22.67 (Rs907) per 100 pounds (45kg) in after-hours electronic trading and stood at $22.655 at 4.19pm Singapore time.
Wheat and corn have also touched records this year, fanning inflation and sparking warnings from UN and International Monetary Fund that the jump may trigger starvation and unrest.
The surge in rice prices has been driven by rising demand and importers’ concern there may be a shortage in the international market. Rice exporters including China, Egypt, Vietnam and India, representing more than a third of global exports, have cut overseas sales this year to safeguard local supplies.
Swaminathan played a key role in the 1960s to bring varieties of wheat from Mexico, and rice from Taiwan and the International Rice Research Institute to marry with local strains and helped raise yields of the country’s two main staples and may have staved off famine, a process widely known as the green revolution.
The world will need an additional 50 million tonnes of rice a year in the years to 2015, about 9% more than current production, according to a forecast on the website of the International Rice Research Institute. Of this, Asia will account for 58% and sub-Saharan Africa for 21%.
India’s commerce minister Kamal Nath on Tuesday asked state governments to prevent hoarding of essential commodities after rising food prices pushed inflation to more than a three-year high in Asia’s third biggest economy. “The state governments must ensure that there is no food hoarding, there is no profiteering,” Nath said.