Singapore invests in regional rice security

Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF) will invest up to US$8.2 million (SGD$10 million) over five years in a new rice research program to help ensure there is enough rice to meet the future demands of Singapore and the region.

The decision is expected to have an important impact on regional food security and encourage other Asian nations to invest in similar programs.
Provided in the form of a grant from the NRF, the money will support a new joint research program between the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory (TLL) in collaboration with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). The research will address some of the most pressing concerns faced by rice farmers in Asia, especially how rice farming can become better adapted to climate change.
The program will also seek to develop new rice varieties with built-in protection against diseases, and reduce the need for limited inputs such as water, thus increasing sustainable rice production and ensuring long-term food security.
IRRI’s Deputy Director General for Research Dr. Achim Dobermann said, “We are delighted to see Singapore stepping up as a regional leader with this investment in international rice research.
“We need to be thinking beyond national borders to help tackle food supply issues,” he added. “And, Singapore is showing real leadership within Asia by doing just that.”
Rice cultivation occupies about 140 million hectares in Asia, with annual production around 600 million tons. It is a staple food for more than half the world’s population, with developing Asian countries equating food security with access to rice supplies. Rice production faces serious constraints due to global environmental changes and ever-increasing demand.
Singapore relies entirely on imported rice and is thus subjected to the fragility of rice supplies and price escalations in international markets. According to IRRI, the world needs to produce 8-10 million tons more rice every year to ensure a reliable supply of rice and keep rice prices affordable. Investments in rice research are essential to provide rice farmers with new rice varieties and smarter ways to grow more rice on less land to ensure and protect future rice supplies in Asia.
The project will be led by Professor Prakash Kumar from NUS’ Department of Biological Sciences and Dr. Naweed Naqvi from Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory, Singapore.
“This grant from the National Research Foundation will enable our teams to help improve yield and disease resistance in rice, and to adapt the crop to rapidly changing environmental conditions,” said Prof. Kumar.
Dr. Naqvi added, “Our collaboration with IRRI will help position Singapore as a strategic partner in regional and global food security. We will now be able to link the excellent research done here in Singapore to many other rice improvement activities worldwide.”
NRF’s support for this project will contribute to Singapore’s future food security, as well as to regional capacity building, ensuring stability of rice production, and positively influencing agriculture and food related policies.