With the worst of El Niño now over, there is a general sense of relief that one of the strongest weather events on record didn’t lead to food shortages and spikes in food prices, particularly for rice.
But Mohanty says that the most important lesson from the 2007-2008 food crisis is not to panic. At that time, major rice-exporting countries such as India and Vietnam restricted rice exports, causing panic buying among rice-importing countries like the Philippines. Some countries purchased more than necessary, which drove up prices.
Advances in rice research and technology in the past decade have managed to save millions of farms worldwide, which otherwise would have been rendered unproductive and useless. More countries have now resorted to adopting salt-tolerant, drought- and heat-resistant rice varieties in unfavourable environments.
Mohanty, however, warns of complacency as politics and successive disasters could easily sway policies and affect supplies in the market. Moreover, he says research should continue to provide better varieties and more profitable returns to encourage farmers to continue planting rice.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s South-East Asia & Pacific desk.