Rice in India

It doesn’t matter how it’s cooked – steamed, boiled or fried – rice is included in pretty much every meal of the day in India, which is the second largest rice-growing country worldwide. Ninety percent of India’s rice is consumed by Indians — and as the country’s population is expected grow by more than 400 million over the next 35 years, the demand for rice is set to skyrocket. To keep up with domestic needs, India has embarked on a number of rice development programs to increase yield and make sure this staple of Indian cuisine is in good supply for decades to come.

Rice, Nanjai Puliampatti, Coimbatore, India.

The Challenge

Krishnan, a farmer from southern India, has been growing rice for 20 years. While the labor involved in rice growing has become less intensive, he says it’s getting more difficult to maintain a decent yield because of growing challenges such as unpredictable weather, pests and diseases. “We’re still managing to function, but only through hard work, sweat and sometimes even tears. I want it to be better for my kids. I will be happier with improved seeds,” he says.

A rice dish with a variety of sauces and curries, Bellathi, Coimbatore, India.

The Solution

Plant scientists are developing new ways using biotechnology to increase rice yields. “While conventional rice breeding has successfully increased yield in recent decades, it has shown limits in keeping pace with growing demand,” says scientist Senthil Kumar. This is one of the main reasons why India has become an emerging market for plant biotechnology. “Through research we can identify specific traits in rice, which we can then separate and adapt to India’s growing conditions so farmers can access safe, high-yielding and healthy plants.”

Customers enjoy a meal in a restaurant specialising in rice dishes in Bellathi, Coimbatore, India.