More Precious Than Gold: Rice’s Often Overlooked Global Impact

251 million tons

India and Bangladesh are the world’s second and third-largest rice producing countries, producing in total some 195 million and 56 million metric tons, respectively, in 2021.


Known as Africa’s “white gold” due to its contribution to economic growth and political stability over 3,000 years, rice is truly a global crop giant.  

Serving as a staple crop for more than 3.5 billion people worldwide and grown in more than 100 countries, rice is one of the “big three” crops that provide nearly half of global calories.

Rice plays a critical role in food security. In South Asia, rice provides roughly 520 million people living in poverty with a significant proportion of their caloric and protein intake. India is one of the largest rice producers in the world, estimated to be producing more than 177 million metric tons. In Bangladesh, rice cultivation provides around 48% of rural employment and about 50% of the population’s protein intake.  

Demand for rice in Africa is growing at more than 6% per year – faster than any other food staple.

Source: AfricaRice

Across Africa, the crop is the second most important source of calories and provides income for more than 35 million smallholder farmers. Nigeria leads the continent’s production of rice with more than 8.3 million metric tons produced in 2021. 

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