MANILA, Philippines, Oct. 3 (UPI) -- Rice farmers in Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines harvested an additional $1.46 billion through the use of rice varieties developed by the International Rice Research Institutes, a new study concludes.
The Australian Center for International Agricultural Research, in its review of IRRI 's research on improving rice yields found that such yields increased up to 13 percent from 1985-2009.
"This means farmers are now harvesting more rice per hectare, which not only lifts them out of poverty, but it is contributing toward the worldwide challenge of feeding the estimated global population of 9 billion people in 2050," Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Kevin Rudd said in a release.
"Ensuring an ample and affordable supply of Asia's staple crop is critical to reducing poverty and increasing regional stability."
The ACIAR study found that the improved rice varieties increased farmers' returns by $127 a hectare in southern Vietnam, $76 a hectare in Indonesia and $52 a hectare in the Philippines.
IRRI initiatives have also resulted in rice that is of better eating quality and crops that are more resistant to pests and diseases, ACIAR says.
In Thailand, which ships nearly 10 million tons of rice annually and accounts for 30 percent of global rice exports, rice farmers may soon get a larger share of rice profits under a government program.
The market price of the country's rice could creep higher if Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra follows through on her election promise to buy rice from farmers in poor, rural belts in the north central and northeastern parts of the country at rates nearly 50 percent above market rates.
Typically such a program could result in higher global rice prices but the prevailing supply and rice from emerging rice suppliers such as Myanmar, Cambodia and Brazil won't see a repeat of the 2008 rice crisis when rice skyrocketed to more than $1,000 a ton, Samarendu Mohanty, IRRI senior economist told Inter Press news service.
Under the new rice policy, for which some 4 million Thai rice farmers have registered, the government would directly pay farmers $517 per ton for unmilled white rice and $689 per ton for jasmine rice.
But this dramatic increase isn't without risks, says the Thai Rice Exporters Association.
"The government is increasing rice prices by 50 percent overnight. This will put Thai rice out of global competition," former TREA President Vichai Sriprasert said.