Second Largest Producer of Rice, India

Second Largest Producer of Rice, India

The Number 2 Position of Rice Production: India’s Journey to Become a Major Global Supplier

India’s rice production has steadily grown over the past decades to become the second highest in the world. With innovative farming techniques and favorable geographic conditions, India has established itself as a leading rice exporter and a pillar of food security across Asia and Africa. However, challenges remain to sustain this growth amidst rising populations, climate change, and ongoing efforts to improve farmer livelihoods.

Tracing the History of Rice in India

Rice has been cultivated in India for thousands of years. Traditional rice growing regions emerged across the Indo-Gangetic plains, blessed with fertile alluvial soils and ample water supplies. Farmers developed and shared knowledge on rice varieties suited for different conditions, as well as techniques like transplanting seedlings for higher yields. With rice being central to food culture and nutrition in India, production levels increased in line with population growth.

The Green Revolution – High Yielding Varieties Transform Production

In the 1960s, India was dependent on imported grains and vulnerable to famine due to frequent monsoon failures. The introduction of high yielding rice varieties during the Green Revolution helped change this. Responding well to irrigation and fertilizers, these varieties enabled multi-cropping and higher yields. Consequently, India achieved self-sufficiency in rice production by the 1970s. Farmers gained access to improved technical know-how from research institutes and extension services. Rice production in India doubled during the 1970s and 1980s.

Sustaining the Growth Momentum

India’s rice production crossed 100 million metric tons in the late 1990s to become the world’s second largest rice grower behind China. Several factors have enabled India to sustain this growth momentum. Research on rice varieties continues to deliver higher yield potentials under different conditions like drought or salinity. Efficient water management, like the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), has raised productivity per unit of water and land. Small farm mechanization has relieved labor shortages and timeliness of operations. Improved market integration via rural roads, storage facilities and information access helps farmers sell at remunerative prices. Government interventions like input subsidies and minimum support prices provide breakeven assurances.

Geographical Spread

The major rice growing states in India are West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Assam. The northwestern Indo-Gangetic plains account for nearly half of production due to alluvial soils, abundant groundwater and irrigation infrastructure like canals. Central and peninsular regions add over a quarter, followed by coastal plains and hilly tribal areas. There is significant untapped potential in eastern and northeastern regions with suitable agroclimatic conditions.

Becoming a Major Exporter

With domestic supply growing faster than demand, India emerged as the world’s largest rice exporter in 2021. Indian rice now reaches global markets across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. A depreciating rupee has made Indian rice more competitive globally. Export promotion policies, economic liberalization, and investment in logistics infrastructure have enabled private traders to scale up exports. At the same time, public distribution of subsidized grains addresses domestic food security. Expanding overseas markets can act as a production incentive for Indian farmers.

Challenges Ahead

India’s rice sector will need to enhance productivity and quality to hold the number two position amidst rising competition. Climate change can increase weather variability, water scarcity and soil degradation in rice landscapes. Groundwater depletion is a concern in the northwest. Post-harvest value addition and supply chain development are inadequate. The fragmented landholding structure makes farm mechanization difficult. Improving rice crop productivity, input use efficiency and resilience to climate change effects are areas for research. Strengthening farmer access to markets, technologies and risk management tools can accelerate growth.

With conducive policies, investment and innovation, India is poised to sustain its trajectory as a leading global rice supplier with millions of smallholder farmers participating in value chains. Rice production continues to play a strategic role in ensuring national and household food security while generating export revenues.

Rice Demand Growing But at Slowing Pace

Global rice consumption reached a record 490 million metric tons in 2021, driven by population growth and changing food habits in Asia and Africa. However, the pace of demand growth is slowing. During 2000-2010, world rice demand increased by 1.4% per year. But in the current decade, it has risen by only 0.6% annually. In major rice exporting countries, per capita consumption has plateaued as diets diversify. Meanwhile, productivity gains in major importing countries have reduced reliance on imports.

Africa and South Asia Key Markets, China Stabilizing

Africa and South Asia will drive nearly 75% of the increase in global rice consumption up to 2029. These are densely populated regions were rice is a staple food. Meanwhile, China’s rice consumption growth has slowed to just 0.2% per year. China’s urbanization and diet diversification away from rice has offsetted increased rice demand from its growing population. Most rice exporting countries have seen domestic consumption fall as production outpaces demand.

Competition Intensifying Among Major Producers

Asia dominates global rice production, accounting for 90%. China and India are the top two producers. Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam Thailand, Myanmar and Japan makeup the other leading producers. With demand growth moderating, competition for export markets and share of stomach has increased. All major producers are investing in raising yields through new varieties and farming techniques. Expanding sales in Africa, the Middle East and Europe is vital for utilizing surplus production.


OECD-FAO Rice Outlook 2022-2031

USDA Rice Outlook

India’s Record Rice Exports

Sustaining Rice Production Growth in India

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