Thursday, 11 December 2014

Rice futures in the Mekong region

Farmers in the Mekong region could remain poor if they grow rice alone. This is one of the messages that have come out of a recent meeting of policymakers and agricultural researchers in Cambodia.

Ideas on policy measures for improving rice-based farming systems in the Mekong region are outlined in a conference proceedings just released by the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR). 

Cambodian smallholder farmers in rice fields. Photo: ACIAR.
The report, A policy dialogue on rice futures: rice-based farming systems research in the Mekong region, marks the conclusion of a AU$14.8 million ACIAR program on farm productivity and policy-focused research in the region. 

The meeting brought together 60 senior policymakers and agricultural researchers, primarily from Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Australia. The resulting report comprises 25 edited papers, including five synopses of panel and audience deliberations. 

ACIAR’s convener of the event, Dr Mike Nunn, said that the policy dialogue challenged the participants to elicit important messages arising from research to inform policymaking and implementation in the region.

“The forum emphasised that farmers in the Mekong region will remain poor if they grow rice alone. In Cambodia, for example, an individual farmer would need to grow 3 hectares of rice to earn an income equivalent to working in the city at US$100/month. It’s easier and less risky for them to choose the latter.”

Participants identified and discussed a plethora of policy responses with the potential to change the fortunes of the region and its farming communities.

According to Dr Nunn, “Policy settings and research investments need to be about much, much more than just increasing production. Although there are opportunities to improve rice-growing practices, there is also a need to manage infrastructure, value-add, diversify and integrate other components into the farming system to increase farmers’ incomes”.

For more policy ideas and insights on the future of the Mekong region’s rice-based farming systems download the proceedings.

ACIAR works closely with policymakers in our partner countries to optimise the impact of its research-for-development investments. The Rice-based Systems Research program is one of four programs developed by ACIAR under the Australian Government’s Food Security through Rural Development initiative (2009–14). 

For more information contact: 

Dr Mike Nunn, ACIAR Research Program Manager for Animal Health, +61 2 6217 0540,

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