The Rice Industry
Rice workers float in a river alongside a rice field in Vietnam. (Courtesy Diana Grace)
Rice is one of the most important commodities in the world. Rice is produced on every continent except Antarctica and in 113 countries. (1) Around 2.5 billion people rely on rice as their main food source. In addition, rice is responsible for over 2 billion jobs in the world. Asia alone has over 200 million rice workers. For many of these people, working in the rice fields is the only life they have ever known. To learn about how rice production spread around the world, visit our history page.
Since rice plays such an important role in people's lives, governments have worked to strictly control the rice trade in their countries.
Over the years, world production of rice has steadily increased, while the price of rise has decreased. In the last 30 years alone, rice consumption has increased by 30%. (2) This has caused many unfortunate social and political issues in developing countries. Of all the rice produced globally, only 6-7% is traded in the world market.
Man Transporting Rice Stalks (Courtesy: Diana Grace)
Currently, the top three rice exporters as of 2006 are Thailand (38%), Vietnam (15.3%), and the United States (11.5%). India (10%), Pakistan (7.2%), and China (3.4%) follow. China is the number one producer of rice, yet its population is so large and greatly relies on rice for food that it is not a very large exporter of the crop. The world's biggest producers of rice are not the world's largest exporters. The world's leading producers of rice include China, Japan, Phillipines, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. To see more on world trade patterns of rice, click here! (3)
Rice is a grain that belongs to the grass family. Rice is grown in paddies and is tolerant to water. The puddles in which the rice stalks grow keep weeds from outgrowing the rice. Once the rice is cut from the fields, it is transported to be milled. There are three main sections to a rice kernal. These are the husk, bran layer, and the embryo. In addition, there are three main varieties of rice, including long, medium, and round grain. Every type of rice has a distinctive texture and traits. (4) A rice huller removes the outer husks of the grain. Once this process is complete, the crop is known as brown rice.
However, if the germ and the rest of the husk are removed, white rice is created. Rice is not only produced for the food we eat. Parts of the crop are used for many different purposes. The stalk can be weaved to make mats, shoes, and hats. Beer and sake can be brewed from rice. In addition, the hulls are used to stuff mattresses and to package goods. (5)
After rice it taken from the field it goes through five unique processes. These include cleaning, husking, seperating, milling, and grading. In the cleaning stages, unwanted materials are removed from the rice grains. Removed objects can include hey, stones, and straw. After cleaning, the rice is husked to remove the husk from the paddy. Through a ventilation process, brown rice is removed from the husks. Then, using gravitational pull and friction, a paddy seperator seperates the brown rice from unhusked paddy. The unhusked paddy is once again husked. The rice is then milled, which removes the bran layer from brown rice. Finally, the rice is seperated by type through a grader. The rice is packaged by grade and ready for shipment. (6) Now that you know how rice is produced, learn about its global supply chain.
Rice production can be impeded by problems such as inclement weather, change in climate conditions, pests, diseases, and labor shortages. (7)
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A Rice Field in Vietnam (Courtesy, Diana Grace)
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