The Rice Trader Rice Americas 2009 Conference held last 12-14 May in Miami, Florida (USA), revealed key concerns of the rice industry and some valuable updates on progress made in food security. About 300 industry members from North, South, and Central America, the Caribbean, and even Asia attended the event, as these regions scrambled to plant more rice and to take a closer look at farm management and varietal needs to keep rice affordable and available to meet the world’s growing demand.
Traders fretted over the recent fall in rice prices. This concern was compounded by a tough business environment, which saw credit lines cut and high-priced inventory create anguish among many unprepared businesses. Moreover, as the threat of an Indian return to the export market was felt as far away as Latin America, the conference identified research, investments in research, and farm management as the key building blocks of future rice production.
Representatives from research and academic fields as well as experts from the public and private sector agreed that efforts aimed at alleviating poverty, feeding the world, and sustainably producing food are the elements crucial to the global rice market. The rice industry has found itself vulnerable to volatility from supply shocks, after more than 10 years of yield growth being unable to keep up with population growth and demand.
Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer received The Rice Trader Market Achievement Award for his contributions to food security by being a faithful steward of relevant policies related to food in the U.S. and key regional markets that depend on food from the country.
The three authors of the following features on Latin America were speakers at the conference. Their articles examine topics that were not only highlighted at the event, but that were also subjects representing their lifetime passion and work in the rice industry.
Interestingly, the conference revealed South America’s own export ambitions. Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay reported on their exports to key African markets that used to be the domain of Asian and U.S. exporters. The three Latin American speakers discussed the region’s potential as a major rice exporter—supporting the points raised by the International Rice Research Institute’s Social Sciences Division Head, Samarendu Mohanty, in his previous Rice Facts article (see Global rice trade: What does it on mean for future food security? ). He had called for more production initiatives to develop new international rice suppliers or new sources for rice.
Rice Today’s publisher, Jeremy Zwinger, and its associate publisher, Duncan Macintosh, were also presenters at the event. Both emphasized the short-term business and longer term humanitarian ambitions of the global rice industry.