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Singapore hosts 5th international rice congress
By Nam Nguyen
Monday,  Oct 15, 2018,18:18 (GMT+7)

Singapore hosts 5th international rice congress

By Nam Nguyen

A high level panel discussion between prominent rice scientists at IRC 2018, which runs from October 15 to 17 in Singapore – PHOTO: COURTESY OF IRC 2018 ORGANIZER

SINGAPORE - The 5th International Rice Congress (IRC 2018) kicked off today, October 15, at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Center in Singapore, attracting thousands of delegates from around the world.

Organised by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Singapore and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (the UN’s FAO), IRC 2018 is set to address world hunger and malnutrition.

The organisers said IRC 2018, themed, “Transformative Science for Food and Nutrition Security,” is a worldwide gathering of thought leaders, scientists, policymakers, agriculture experts and technology providers in the field of rice research.

This year, the IRC is largely sponsored by Corteva Agriscience, the agriculture division of DowDuPoint.

At the opening ceremony, IRRI, Agri-food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore and the UN’s FAO renewed their commitment to direct efforts and resources toward achieving global food and nutrition security.

IRC 2018 is also being staged to give the relevant rice players the opportunity to share their work's impact with the rest of the world, focusing on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. With an estimated 1,500 attendees, the work is expected to get the exposure it needs from a relevant audience.

Giving the opening remarks, Lawrence Wong, minister for National Development, said Singapore, as well as other major rice consumers, is dependent on innovations in agricultural science and farming practices. These innovations, according to Wong, will play a crucial role in securing the food supply and coping with shortages caused by climate change.

Gilbert F. Houngbo, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, noted that international stakeholders and local partners have been analysing all relevant issues to “create a rural innovation ecosystem.” He stated, “Innovation is not just technology; farming practices must be changed as well.”

Dr. Matthew Morell, director general of IRRI, remarked that IRC 2018 aims to drive organizations to adopt more cohesive and sustainable approaches.

“Half of the world’s population, some 3.5 billion people, eat rice daily. While more than 90% of this rice is eaten in Asia, including the region’s 515 million people still affected by hunger, the demand for rice in Africa is growing at 7% per year,” Morell said. “Together with a host of like-minded organizations, we can translate sound scientific research into innovative solutions for the world's smallest farmers.”

Krysta Harden, Corteva Agriscience vice president of external affairs and chief sustainability officer, raised the issue of an aging farm workforce. The average age of farmers in the United States, according to Harden, is 60 and the number of youngsters choosing farming as a way of living is in decline.

Harden pointed out that the goal of Corteva as a technology company is to improve the working conditions of farmers, to make it a sustainable profession. “We don’t make decisions in the boardrooms but on the farm, for the farmers,” Harden insisted.

Rice is the world’s most important staple food, and the demand for rice will eventually double what the world can produce today, according to the IRC organisers. To meet the need of the growing global population, rice production needs to dramatically increase by 25% over the next 25 years.

Taking place every four years, IRC has been designed as a platform for forging public-private collaborations to unlock new solutions to meet the future demand for food.

IRC 2018 will last until October 17. Over the next few days of the event, several partnership agreements for long-term funding, knowledge exchange and technology transfer will be officially signed.

In 2010, Hanoi, Vietnam, hosted the 3rd IRC, themed, “Rice for the Future Generations,” with the participation of 1,700 delegates.

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