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Rice by the numbers: A good grain

Millions of people around the world rely on rice as the bulk of their daily diet. This snapshot of the crop's production, consumption and trade shows an overall surplus, but population growth in future decades may affect the situation, writes Emily Elert.

DAILY DEPENDENCE

Average percentage of daily calories derived from rice 1961–2011, per capita. Factors that affect the demand of rice include: rapid economic development; increased gross domestic product; and urbanization in developing countries.

figure a

Data source: Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations, Statistics Division.

GLOBAL NUTRITION

On average, every day, each person on the planet consumes:

figure b

Data source: Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations, Statistics Division.

INCREASED DEMAND

figure c

Data source: Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations, Statistics Division.

RISING RICE PRODUCTION

figure d

Data source: Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations, Statistics Division.

PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION

The major rice producers of the world grow more than enough rice to feed their own people. The excess ends up as exports, livestock feed, seed stock or waste (spoiled during transport or storage). Data show the average annual production and consumption from 2007 to 2011, measured in million tonnes (Mt).

figure e

Data source: Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations, Statistics Division.

IMPORTS AND EXPORTS

Most rice is consumed in the country where it is grown, but increasing demand in Africa has lead to broader global trade. Data show the average annual export amount in tonnes from 2007 to 2011.

figure f

Data source: Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations, Statistics Division.

SPACE TO GROW

Improved rice strains and modern agricultural techniques have meant that farmers can produce higher yields on a smaller area of land. The figure shows the average area of land needed to produce 1 tonne.

figure g

Data source: Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations, Statistics Division.

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Rice cultivation: Feast or famine?

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Blogpost: Temperature increases damage rice yield

Related external links

National Geographic. Feeding 9 billion.

IRRI. Reducing poverty.

IRRI. Importance of rice.

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Elert, E. Rice by the numbers: A good grain. Nature 514, S50–S51 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/514S50a

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