Connect Yourself |
International year of Rice
In an effort to attend to the problems of hunger and malnutrition, among others, the United Nations General Assembly on Oct. 31 declared 2004 the International Year of Rice. Sixty percent of the world's 1.3 billion poor live in Asia, and rice is their principal sustenance.
According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), it is urgent to boost rice supplies, given the growing demand by a population with very limited income and whose numbers are growing exponentially.
A study by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) states that the average person in countries like Bangladesh, Vietnam and Burma consume 150 to 200 kilos of rice a year, representing two-thirds or more of their daily calorie intake and approximately 60 percent of their daily protein consumption. "For the poorest, rice is a luxury," says the study.
Among the notable characteristics of this cereal is its low level of sodium and zero cholesterol. Rice is also an important source of vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin and niacin) and minerals (phosphorous, iron and potassium). Rice also has limited amounts of protein, containing eight amino acids essential for the human body.
Worldwide, more than 585 million metric tons of rice were produced in 2001, 84 percent in Asian countries. The vast majority of consumers are in Asia (91 percent). Latin America represents 3.7 percent of consumption and Africa 3.4 percent.
The prediction that growing demands for rice will outstrip production has led organizations like FAO to support the development and cultivation of hybrid rice, produced by cross-pollination of two species. Hybrid varieties discovered in 1974 by Chinese scientists currently produce 15 to 20 percent more than traditional varieties.
Accompanying poverty is malnutrition. According to figures from the non-governmental Bread for the World Institute, there are 840 million people suffering malnutrition worldwide. Of that total, more than 95 percent live in developing countries and more than 153 million are five years old or younger. An estimated six million of these young children die of hunger each year.
Land, water and labor resources are on the decline in rice producing countries, there are those who put forth other arguments in the world hunger debate.
The World Health Organization, for one, states that hunger is the result of poor distribution and inequality, not the lack of food."