China focuses on improved rice quality and nutrition

10/23/05

But still has concerns over rice production

Hangzhou, China – China, the world's largest rice producer, has announced the launch of a major new research effort to further improve the overall quality of its rice varieties and boost their nutritional value.

At a joint event this week in Hangzhou with the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Chinese officials formally opened a new Rice Quality and Nutrition Center at the China National Rice Research Institute (CNRRI). The new Chinese facility will be closely linked to the Grain Quality and Nutrition Research Center opened at IRRI late last year.

"Quality and nutrition are two of the most exciting new areas in rice research," Robert S. Zeigler, the director general of IRRI, said at the opening ceremony. "Not only do we have the scientific tools and knowledge to ensure that new rice varieties are of the highest quality, but we can also now work to increase the nutritional value of these varieties by adding such things as iron, zinc and vitamin A."

Dr. Zeigler said IRRI was delighted and honored to be able to work with CNRRI on such an important new area of rice research. "While we obviously have to maintain a focus on rice production increases to keep up with population growth, as China's rice consumers become wealthier, food quality and nutrition will clearly become higher priorities."

He emphasized that improving grain quality would also help boost rice prices in the marketplace and so help Chinese rice farmers increase their income.

The new Rice Quality and Nutrition Center at CNRRI was sponsored and supported by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. Its opening was part of the second IRRI-China Work Plan Meeting and Rice Science Forum in Hangzhou on October 10-12.

The gathering focused on priority issues facing rice production in China over the next five years in four main areas: rice breeding and the development of the next generation of so-called "super" or higher-yielding, higher quality rice varieties; the more efficient use of inputs, especially fertilizer; rice quality, nutrition and the use of biotechnology; and the development of more water-efficient rice technologies.

"Rice production in China is facing some major challenges, especially in such areas as the sustainability of natural resources and the need for continual increases in the levels of production to meet existing demand," Ren Wang, the deputy director general for research at IRRI, said. "Fortunately, China has a strong, talented community of world-class rice scientists and researchers to handle these challenges, with IRRI's role being to support and facilitate their work and make sure they have access to international rice research in all relevant areas."

Dr. Wang said IRRI was very excited by the research priorities discussed and agreed on at the meeting in Hangzhou. "It's hard to overestimate the importance of rice research in China because of the very great importance of rice production in terms of national food security, stability and development," he said.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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