The average person in much of Asia eats rice two or three times a day.
[Back to Learn Rice]
THAT’S A LOT OF RICE. The average person
in Myanmar eats 195 kg of rice each year; in Lao PDR and Cambodia, it’s
about 160 kg. Contrast this with the average European, who consumes 3 kg
per year and the average American, who eats 7 kg.
MUD, SWEAT, AND GAZING AT A WATER BUFFALO’S REAR END. To plow 1 ha
of rice land in the traditional way, a farmer and his water buffalo (preparing
land is almost always men’s work) must walk 80 km.
WHAT? WILD RICE ISN’T RICE? The
so-called "wild rice" in North America isn’t rice at all—it’s
actually a grass in a different genus.
GROW IT, EAT IT. Most rice is consumed
in the country where it is produced. Only 5 percent of the world’s total
is exported. Thailand ships the most: about 5 million tons a year. The
United States is second with nearly 3 million tons, and Vietnam third,
with 2 million tons.
THIRSTY RICE. It takes 5,000 liters
of water to produce one kilogram of rice.
WHY IS MY BACK SORE? In Asia, planting rice is often a back-breaking
chore. Every seedling must be poked into the mud by hand—usually by women.
HIGH-TECH RICE PRODUCTION. Many
rice farmers in the United States level their fields with laser-controlled
earthmovers and seed their fields from airplanes.
THAT’S DIVERSITY! More than 140,000
varieties of cultivated rice (the grass species Oryza sativa) are
thought to exist—but no one really knows for sure. More than 90,000 samples
of cultivated rice and wild species are stored in trust in the International
Rice Genebank for use by researchers around the world.
RICE-EATING COUNTRIES. Three of
the world’s four most populous nations are rice-based societies—China,
India, and Indonesia. Together, they have nearly 2.5 billion people.
The Versatile, Dependable Rice Plant
Asia use nearly every bit of the rice plant for something.
STRAW: twisted into sticks for
- stacked and preserved for fodder for cattle
- braided into rope
- crafted into apparel, shoes, handicrafts, and toys
- molded into bricks
- made into paper
- used to make a "rice dragon" on which silk worms build their
GRAIN: milled and cooked as rice
for people to eat
fermented into wine
- processed into crackers and cereals
- brewed into beer
- processed into feed for animals
- ground into cosmetic powders
BRAN: rendered for oil to make
soap and cosmetics
added to "health foods" for fiber and nutrition
HULLS: used as packing material
to pad fragile cargo during shipping
burned for fuel in simple stoves and to generate electricity in large
packed around ice blocks for insulation
ASH FROM HULLS : used to clean
discolored teeth, and turned into cellulose products, such as rayon and
Sources: White, Peter T., "Rice: The Essential Harvest,"
National Geographic, May 1994, pp. 48-79.
IRRI, Rice Almanac, 1997. ISBN: 971-22-0092-2