Rice is the staple food for more than half of the world’s population, and a predominantly large portion of the global rice supply is produced, traded, and consumed in Southeast Asia. Food security thus relies largely on what goes on with rice in this part of the world.
We provide technical and policy support to governments in Southeast Asia for the development of their respective rice sectors. IRRI has been a key global hub for developing and disseminating high-yielding and resilient rice varieties, advanced cultivation technologies, and educational programs and tools to our national agricultural research extension system partners across the region and the world.
Challenges in Southeast Asia
- Adverse effects of climate change with expectation of increasing incidence of flood, drought and coastal salinity
- Increasing population and demand
- Loss of arable land and competition for water due to urbanization
- Inadequate supplies of high quality seeds and inputs
- Vulnerability of farmers to biotic and abiotic shocks
- Aging farm populations and increasing labor costs
- High levels of crop losses in quality and quantity along the production – post harvest value chain.
IRRI has assisted agriculture ministries of various SouthEast Asian nations in drafting rice sector strategies, guided by the country’s unique needs and experience, global trends, and more than 50 years of the institute’s research and development into higher-yielding and sturdy rice varieties, technologies, crop management practices, and policy advice.
Foster future-looking policy and collaboration
We work with governments and the private sector to find solutions for current and looming challenges in the rice sector. IRRI has taken the lead in multinational organizations like the Council for Partnership on Rice Research in Asia (CORRA), to creating multi-sectoral consortia for private sector partners like the Hybrid Rice Development Consortium (HRDC) and the Direct Seeded Rice Consortium (DSRC). We are also working with governments to improve the supplies of quality rice seeds to farmers.
As staple food for many of the world’s poor, rice can be a convenient delivery vehicle for micronutrients that can prevent ‘hidden hunger’ and stunting in children. We are developing rice varieties biofortified with vitamin A, zinc, and iron, while there is early research on low glycemic index rice which can become part of a healthier diet for people who have, or are prone to, diabetes.
Addressing climate change
Southeast Asia will be seriously affected by climate change. Aside from crafting policy with governments that address its gradual and continuing effects, we are developing climate-smart rice varieties and crop management practices that can help rice production be more resilient to environmental shocks, from flooding and drought, to salinity and extreme temperatures. Further, in areas such as the Mekong delta we are working with partners to develop practices to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
While the demand for rice in Southeast Asia is growing, resources for rice agri-food systems like land, water, and labor are diminishing. Through research and innovation, we are developing ecological approaches to management and resource-conserving technologies to support further intensification and diversification of rice systems. With partners across Southeast Asia are developing options with farmers to reduce the yield gaps which are on average only two-thirds of a farms potential agronomic yield. Through the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP), IRRI has also developed a series of indicators to assess the sustainability of farm practices.
Address losses in the rice value chain
Smallholder farmers tend to incur high losses in quality and quantity the post-harvest chain and, in Myanmar and Vietnam for example, IRRI is working with partners to introduce options for drying and storage. Technologies include small scale solar or rice-husk fueled dryers and hermetic storage bags that can be introduced at village level.
Rice seed conservation
Through the International Rice Genebank, we are safeguarding rice genetic diversity from all over the world to enable research and breeding of improved rice varieties. This preservation also helps in replenishing lost or endangered varieties, like when IRRI reintroduced over 700 traditional rice varieties that were wiped out in Cambodia due to famine.
Building knowledge and capacity
We establish systems and support existing ones that facilitate knowledge dissemination and adoption of rice technologies across major rice-producing areas. From IRRI Education and online databases and apps, to mechanization and on-the-ground knowledge delivery with our NARES partners, our efforts are aimed to ultimately benefit farmers.
Countries where IRRI is active
As a result of food shortages in the late 1970s, many farmers were forced to eat their rice seed and traditional varieties were lost. In the 1980s, IRRI reintroduced 766 traditional Cambodian rice varieties to Cambodia from its seed bank in the Philippines—a vivid demonstration of the foresight that created the bank in the 1960s. In 2016, Cambodia and IRRI mark their 30th year of partnership. Read more
Indonesia and IRRI's partnership has been mutually beneficial since 1972. It resulted in increased rice productivity, improved livelihoods for Indonesian rice farmers, and increased capability of a trained new generation of Indonesian scientists.
Collaboration between the government of Indonesia and IRRI formally began in 20 December 1972, when both agreed to cooperate in the improvement of rice research through Indonesia’s National Rice Research Program. Read more
Lao PDR-IRRI collaboration began in the late 1960s and continued in the 1970s with testing of improved rice breeding material from IRRI’s rice breeding and selection work in Lao PDR. In 1973, systematic multilocation yield trials took place followed by the multiplication and dissemination of several IRRI lines and varieties to farmers. Read more
Since 1965, IRRI has been involved with Myanmar researchers, extension personnel, and farmers in introducing rice breeding material, hybrid rice technology, and locally adaptable designs for rice transplanters and threshers. In May 2015, Myanmar Rice Sector Development Strategy was launched at the Department of Agricultural Research, Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar. Read more
IRRI has a special relationship with the Philippines, the country having been its home since the Institute’s founding in 1960.
Among the many milestones in this partnership, an important one was that in 1985, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice) was created. IRRI has been in collaboration with Philrice in most of its research and training projects in the Philippines. Read more
As far back as 1941, Thailand recognized the importance of deepwater rice research by building the Huntra Rice Experiment Station. The first formal link between Thailand and IRRI was made in 1960-1963 when Prince M.C. Chakrabandhu became a founding member of the IRRI Board of Trustees. Read more
Since 1963, Vietnam and IRRI have enjoyed a long, fruitful history of collaboration, starting with the release of IR8 in both the northern and southern delta rice-growing areas. In 1978, an IRRI team headed by then Director General N.C. Brady visited Vietnam upon the invitation of the Minister of Agriculture Vo Chi Cong. A memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the Ministry and IRRI laid the foundation for work for the succeeding decades. Read more