Small-scale producers grow most of the rice in Asia, playing a significant role in providing food security, jobs and income across the region. However, a combination of worsening inequality in food value chains and the crippling impacts of climate change is leaving rice farming systems at a critical juncture. These challenges threaten the future viability of rice production that underpins the livelihoods and primary food source for millions of people.
New research commissioned by Oxfam shows that rice farmers in some countries can receive as little as 4% of the price paid by consumers. This has implications for poverty: in Nepal, farmers' income from rice farming is estimated at just 13% of the amount needed for a basic but decent income.
The burden is particularly bad for women farming and working in the Asian rice sector: they receive lower wages and often suffer discrimination.
There are opportunities for change. For example, smarter government regulation to protect workers' rights and empower small-scale producers can support better returns for farmers; and responsible private sector investment can support small-scale producers to benefit from rapidly modernizing rice markets.
This paper puts forward a vision for a more equitable, sustainable and climate-resilient rice sector; and provides recommendations for governments and the private sector to help achieve that vision.