The growth of rice production has slowed to only 0.4 percent since 2010, making it tough to feed the growing population amid a continuous fall in arable land, the chief of International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) said yesterday.
Before 2010, rice production grew by more than 2 percent annually, Humnath Bhandari said at the opening of a two-day workshop on “Transforming Rice Breeding (TRB): current status and way forward”.
IRRI organised the event at the ACI Centre at Tejgaon in the capital.
“Land is declining. So if we cannot continue increasing the yield, how can we feed the growing population?” Bhandari questioned.
Every year around 2 million of people are added to the population, which now stands at over 160 million, he said.
Bangladesh now has 13 million farmers who produce over 35 million tonnes of rice a year, according to a presentation showed at the event.
In 2014-15, per hectare yield was 3.04 tonnes, which has to be increased to meet the future demand, experts said at the event.
By 2050, the annual demand for rice will hit around 44.6 million tonnes in Bangladesh, according to the presentation. Bhandari stressed the need for conducting more research on rice and developing new varieties of the staple food to face the challenges of feeding the growing population.
Agriculture Secretary Md Nasiruzzaman said there is a relation between rice production and food security.
For this reason, the government gives importance to research to develop improved varieties of rice capable of giving higher yield, he said.
“We have no alternative but to raise rice production.”
Crop lands are shrinking every year due to housing and industrialisation, ACI Ltd’s Chairman M Anis Ud Dowla said.
ACI had invested $6 million to develop high-yield varieties of rice in collaboration with Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) and IRRI.
The TRB, a project of IRRI, was taken to spread use of modern breeding tools and for faster development of new rice varieties.
The project will help develop new rice varieties in three to four years, much faster than the traditional system, which takes eight to nine years, according to IRRI.
“The new approach of rice breeding is cost-effective and based on market demand,” the institute said in a statement.
“The important aspect of the modern approach is the selection process, which is molecular based and unlike the visual selection system in the traditional approach.”
IRRI said the rice varieties once developed through the TRB approaches will be ‘highly acceptable’ by the farmers not only for high yield but also for the desirable traits such as resistance to diseases and pests, salinity tolerant and attractive grain quality.
“Farmers will not cultivate decades old varieties; instead they will cultivate the new ones. This would make tremendous boost of rice production in Bangladesh,” according to IRRI.
Among others, Prof Lutful Hssan, former vice-chancellor of Bangladesh Agricultural University; Md Shahjahan Kabir, director general of BRRI, and Gary Atlin, senior programme officer at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, were also present.