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Rice: A Global Perspective. Presentation by Anne LaFrinier. A Global History of Rice. There are two different domesticated varieties of rice: Oryza sativa and Oryza glaberrima ; as well as thousands of varieties of wild rice

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Rice: A Global Perspective

Presentation by Anne LaFrinier

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A Global History of Rice

  • There are two different domesticated varieties of rice: Oryza sativa and Oryza glaberrima; as well as thousands of varieties of wild rice

  • Oryza sativa, which originated in Asia, has three different types: japonica, which is short-grained and sticky when cooked; indica, which is long-grained and remains separate when cooked; and javanica, which is similar to japonica

Top: japonica rice Bottom: indica and japonica rice

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The Oryza sativa variety of rice was domesticated in Asia somewhere around Burma, Thailand, North Vietnam, and southwest China, around 5000 B.C.E.

Rice was naturally grown in standing water

Asian farmers originally grew rice in swamps

Other later production methods include:

Terraces, built in valleys and on mountainsides

Floating fields

Around 100 C.E., Chinese farmers began plowing fields in straight lines

Plows appeared around 300 C.E.

Traditional pesticide uses:

Combing the fields

Lime or tung oil

Traditional fertilizers:



Bean-curd production waste

Fertilizers used in China:

Lime, mollusk shells, river mud, silkworm waste, human waste

History of Rice in Asia

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History of Rice In Africa

  • Oryza glaberrima was domesticated in Mali between 2700 and 3500 years ago

  • Production spread 1000 miles across the African continent along the “rice coast”

  • Methods of cultivation:

    • Flood-recession cultivation

    • Cultivation on coastal estuaries

  • When possible, three separate rice crops were planted annually

  • Many African slaves brought to the Americas came from the rice coast

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Manoominike Giizis

  • Indigenous tribes of North America have been harvesting wild rice, Zizania palustris, for over 1000 years

  • In Ojibwe culture, wild rice was introduced to the popular oral history character Nanaboozhoo by a duck

  • Wild rice was traditionally cared for and harvested collectively, with each family getting a fair share

  • Wild rice is an important part of Ojibwe culture and history

  • The Anishinaabe people traditionally attended wild rice camp each Manoominike Giizis

  • Wild rice harvesting has remained relatively unchanged for 1000 years

Wild rice “not only feeds the body, it feeds the soul, continuing a tradition that is generations old” ~ Winona Laduke (2005)

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Domesticated rice cultivation began in colonial times in South Carolina

An estimated 43% of African slaves brought to South Carolina were from the rice coast

Cultivation methods in early South Carolina include:

The reserve system

The tidal-flow method

These new methods increase yields from 600 lb/acre in the early 1700s to between 1200 and 1500 lb/acre at the start of the 1800s

Due to environmental and economic factors, rice production shifted to Louisiana, then Texas and Arkansas

Rice cultivation in Texas and Arkansas was adapted by farmers from the Midwest

Due to technology increases, several extension services, and the availability of cheap land, the amount of US rice farm acreage increased from 292,000 to 740,000 acres

In the beginning of the 20th century, California began producing mainly short-grain rice, and was therefore not competitive with other states in the rice market

Rice acreage in the US increased from 1.5 million to 2.5 million acres between 1946 and 1954

History of Rice in the US

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Economic Factors South Carolina

  • On Ojibwe reservations, there has been a dramatic decline in ricers. Reasons include:

    • Today’s job world makes it difficult to obtain time off needed to harvest wild rice

    • Wild rice production has become increasing commercialized

  • The result of increased commercialized “wild” rice cultivation is that the cost of wild rice declined significantly

  • This has destabilized the wild rice economy of the Ojibwe people

  • Because today’s technology and equipment are so expensive, most ricers use equipment that is either handmade or from the 1940s and 1950s

Harvesting commercially-grown paddy “wild” rice

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Rice Production South Carolina

Women in Madagascar harvesting rice

Woman in Madagascar planting rice seedlings

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Rice Production South Carolina

Harvesting rice in Arkansas, above, and Brazil, right

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Rice Production Facts South Carolina

  • Rice farms in Asia average at 1 hectare or less, while in the US the average rice farm is 150 hectares

  • China produces the most amount of rice, accounting for 36% of rice produced globally

  • Rice is one of the top three grains consumed worldwide, accounting for 20.2 percent of all grains grown in 1984

  • People in West Africa and Indigenous North Americans both continue to grow and harvest rice by traditional methods

  • Throughout Asia, farmers practice wet-rice cultivation, which unlike dry rice farming increases soil fertility

Farmers harvesting rice in Thailand

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Wild Rice Production South Carolina

  • Today, there are two methods of cultivating wild rice

  • The Ojibwe people cultivate and harvest their rice traditionally in lakes

  • One family harvests between 400 and 500 pounds of rice each season

  • Commercial wild rice is grown on paddies

  • California now produces more wild rice than areas in which wild rice originated

  • In the Minnesota wild rice market, traditionally harvested wild rice accounts for only 15% of rice produced annually

Anishinaabeg harvesting wild rice traditionally

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Rice Production in Africa South Carolina

  • Today, rice production in west Africa is similar to methods that have been practiced for centuries

  • African farmers who plant their rice crops in swamps practice double-cropping, by planting vegetables after rice is harvested

  • Rice farmers also rotate their fields between rice farming and livestock pasture, which provides farmers with land fertilized by manure

  • These examples show how indigenous knowledge has been passed down for countless generations and still proves effective

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Several environmental issues surround production of wild rice

Commercial wild rice paddies only use one variety of wild rice, which destroys the plant’s biodiversity

The preferred wild rice grown in paddies is genetically modified so that it can be processed mechanically

GM rice is also sterile, which goes against the Anishinaabeg prayers for fruitful, abundant rice

In 2005, both the White Earth and Fond du Lac reservations banned the use and/or importation of GM rice onto their lands

In 2006, Bayer Chemical was responsible for the contamination of the US’ long grain rice crop with GM rice

Virtually all long grain rice in the US was contaminated

Countries in Europe and Asia that refuse to purchase GM crops imported less rice from the US

This resulted in a 16% decrease in annual sales, and market prices for rice dropped

In response to these issues, US rice-growing states filed law suits against Bayer CropScience for tainting rice and damaging the export market

Rice and the Environment

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Rice Consumption rice

  • Rice is a staple food for 34.9% of the world’s population

  • Per capita rice consumption facts:

    • The US consumes 8.5 kilos/year

    • Brazil consumes ~43 kilos/year

    • Japan consumes ~62 kilos/year

    • China accounts for ~90 kilos/year

    • In Indonesia, the per capita consumption of rice is ~136 kilos/year

    • Burma and Laos account for the highest per capita consumption of rice at over 200 kilos/year

  • Japanese prefer japonica rice, but most other Asian countries, including Thailand, prefer indica rice

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Rice Consumption rice

  • In the US, 20% of rice is used in beer production

  • Beer companies that use rice include Coors, Anheuser-Busch, Budweiser, and Michelob

  • Today, Anheuser-Busch is the largest consumer of rice in the US

  • In addition to rice used for beer production, another 21% of rice in the US ends up in processed foods

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The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) was opened in 1963 in the Philippines, with grants from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations

Main goal was to eliminate world hunger problems

Collects varieties of rice and genetically modifies strains which will hopefully breed true

In 1993, of the estimated 120,000 varieties of rice, the IRRI had collected almost 75,000 of them, from 113 countries

IRRI programs are instrumental for spreading Green Revolution technology

Today an IRRI program includes:

Technical expertise

Chemical fertilizers and technology from TNCs


Credit extended by World Bank

The results have not always been successful:

IRRI breeds have been unpopular with consumers

Many strains were not pest-resistant and required more chemical use

These new rice varieties did little to alleviate rural poverty


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Alternatives in 1963 in the Philippines, with grants from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations

  • A suggested alternative to the IRRI: that each country develop its own rice research center focused on the problems specific to their regions

  • In Taiwan, farmers refuse to purchase IRRI seeds, and instead buy their rice seeds through Farmers’ Associations

  • Because wet-rice production in Asia has remained small-scale, there has been little tendency towards large landholdings or corporate farms

  • Land reforms in Japan, Korea and Taiwan have curtailed the forming capitalist rice farming

A farmer planting rice seedlings in Asia

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Navdanya in 1963 in the Philippines, with grants from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations

  • Navdanya is an organization, founded by Vandana Shiva, formed to protect the biodiversity of rice and the rights of farmers

  • In the 20 years since it was founded, it has succeeded in the conservation of over 2,000 varieties of rice

  • Navdanya has opened 34 seed banks in 13 states in India

  • The organization’s mission is to provide peace, harmony, justice and sustainability, while improving the wellbeing of rural farmers through nonviolent, biodiverse organic farming and fair trade

One of Navdanya’s food stalls in India

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Native Harvest in 1963 in the Philippines, with grants from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations

  • Native Harvest is a part of the White Earth Land Recovery Project

  • In 1993 WELRP launched the Sustainable Communities initiative, with the goal of restoring traditional foods and capturing a fair market price for traditionally and organically grown foods

  • Four components for WELRP’S wild rice campaign:

    • Protection of the intellectual property rights of the Anishinaabeg

    • The opposition of the genetic modification and contamination of wild rice

    • promote fair trade for traditionally hand harvested natural lake wild rice

    • educate others on the tradition and culture surrounding wild rice