Rice in the World at Stake:  Crisis coming from the weakening demand


Shoichi Ito


Faculty of Agriculture, Tottori University





     Rice has been consumed as the staple food more than any other grain in the world.  However, in Asia, where 90% of global rice is consumed, per capita rice consumption (PCRC) is declining over time.  In Japan the PCRC decreased by half from 120kg to 60kg during the last 4 decades.  In Taiwan, it decreased by more than two-thirds from 160kg to 50kg during the same period.  The same type of situation has been occurring in other Asian countries such as S. Korea, China, India, etc.  The current situation in S. Korea is similar to what happened in Japan in the 1970fs when the rice oversupply became almost out of control.  In China, the pace of decline currently appears to be small at 0.5kg per year from 110kg during the last decade.  However, the diet in large areas of China is quite similar to the Taiwanese.  Therefore, it would not be surprising even if the PCRC in China were to decline as fast as what has happened in Taiwan. 

If this trend continues for another 10 years, rice production in Asia as well as in the world may have to decrease.  While rice is the major agricultural crop and the major source of income and calories for the most of Asian people, less production of rice with weak demand mean that Asian people would have a less competitive agriculture relative to the other regions and more serious  environmental and poverty problems in the rural areas.  Further, this is a critical problem not only for Asian agriculture but for any rice producer in the world.