Rice is a staple for the majority of the 1.7 billion South Asian population and a source of livelihood for more than 50 million households. Apart from its economic and strategic importance, rice is deeply engraved in the rich tradition and culture of many South Asian countries. The region cultivates rice on 60 million hectares and produces slightly above 225 million tons of paddy, accounting for 37.5% of the global area and 32% of global production in 2013. Within South Asia, both India and Bangladesh are major rice-growing countries. India has the largest rice area in the world with 43 million hectares (more than a quarter of the global rice area) and contributes a little less than a quarter of global production. Bangladesh has more than 11 million hectares of rice area and produces 50 million tons of paddies.
The other three rice-growing countries in South Asia—Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka—together have slightly above 5 million hectares of rice area and produce 17 million tons of paddy. Current paddy production in South Asia is more than 300% more than what it was at the start of the Green Revolution in the late 1960s.
Wheat is the second major staple crop, after rice, in India and Pakistan and is also gaining similar importance in Nepal and Bangladesh. Wheat production in South Asia has increased from 15mt in 1960s to 112mt during 2005–2014.
The most serious constraints to wheat production in this region are a host of biotic and abiotic stresses. Although India has not faced any rust epidemic in the last decade, rusts continue to occupy the place of most dangerous pathogen for the region. Among the abiotic stresses, unusual warming trends during grain filling period are causing yield declines, especially in eastern and central India. There are other challenges that are specific to the highly productive rice–wheat cropping system predominant in the Indo-Gangetic plains. The total factor productivity of this system is declining due to depletion of soil organic carbon. Addition of organic matter to soil through green manuring and crop residue recycling, balanced fertilization, integrated nutrient management, diversification of rice-wheat system are some of the possible remedial measures to improve total factor productivity.
Maize is a major food, feed and industrial crop and offers immense opportunities for attaining nutritional security in the region. In fact, annual production growth rate in maize had been higher in Asia compared to global average, reflecting thereby tremendous potential for future up-scaling and out-scaling of innovations to have greater impact on livelihoods of smallholder farmers. The demand for maize is also expected to double by 2050.
The importance of maize in Asia’s cropping systems has grown rapidly in recent years, with several countries registering impressive growth in production and productivity rates. There is scope for further expansion of maize area in the region, as well as tremendous opportunities for innovations in crop improvement, management and diversification. The international and national institutions engaged in maize research and development are also emphasizing foresight, technology targeting, partnerships involving all stakeholders and capacity development to effectively out scale innovations for greater impact.
South Asian countries are largely agriculture based. About 60% of the population of the region depends on agriculture for their livelihood. Contribution of agriculture to GDP of SAARC countries is around 16-30% (Bangladesh-16.33%, Bhutan 16.8%, India 18%, Nepal 33%, and Pakistan 20.9%). Among the SAARC Countries, India is the only country self-sufficient in seed. In general, Bangladesh meets around 40% of the seed requirements and Bhutan around 50%; while that of Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka is only about 12%. Afghanistan and Maldives also depend on imported seed, a small share it is fulfilled by domestic production.
Food security and nutritional security can be achieved only through seed security. The concept of SAARC Seed Bank is mainly targeted to achieve self-sufficiency in food and seed security of the SAARC countries. The Thirty-seventh Session of the Standing Committee (Thimphu, 27 April 2010) agreed on establishment of a Regional Seed Bank. The concept for establishing Seed Bank is the SA region was approved in 2011.
For more details please follow the links on the menu on the top.