Business Overview (Introduction)

Rice is the staple food of 65% of India's population and its cultivation is a major source of employment in South Asia. India, Bangladesh and Pakistan supply almost 30% of the world's paddy rice.

Production in South Asia

India is the second biggest grower of paddy rice in the world. In 2003 it produced over 132 million tonnes. Bangladesh is also one of the top producers, growing over 38 million tonnes. Pakistan produces over 6 million tonnes. Together, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh grow about 30 % of the global total of paddy rice.

Indian states of the south and the east are very strong rice cultivation areas. These include the highly populated states of West Bengal and Tamil Nadu and midsized states with distinctive cultural traditions such as Kerala and Orissa. Rice is also grown to an extent across much of the rest of India. Rice fields can even be found up to moderate elevations in India's Himalayan states.

Green revolution

Until the 1950s, few rice farmers in Asia were using modern agricultural methods; they were using unimproved cultivars of rice. These cultivars were tall, weak-stemmed and late-maturing; yields were relatively low.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) was set up in 1960 to look at ways to improve rice crops. Breakthroughs in breeding have produced remarkable rice plants which, together with improved cultivation techniques, yield three times more rice than before. World rice production increased from just over 215 million tonnes in 1961 to almost 590 million tonnes in 2003.

Local rices

There are thousands of local rice varieties. Scientists divide rice into two main groups, tropical indica and temperate japonica. Within each type are varieties that are grown under different environmental conditions. The most basic distinction is between wet- and dry-rice varieties. Wet-rice is most commonly grown in Asia, frequently in paddy fields where rice is cultivated on irrigated or flooded land. Dry varieties are typically grown on hillsides and aren't submerged in water and only account for a small percentage of rice grown.


Today, rice is grown and harvested on every continent except Antarctica, where conditions make its growth impossible. The majority of all rice produced comes from India, China, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, and Bangladesh. Asian farmers still account for 92-percent of the world's total rice production. More than 550 million tons of rice is produced annually around the globe. In the United States, farmers have been successfully harvesting rice for more than 300 years.There are thousands of strains of rice today, including those grown in the wild and those which are cultivated as a crop.