Rice, wheat and corn are the three leading food crops of the world. Rice is the staple food for the most of the countries in Asia. It is the basic ingredient of every meal in almost every Asian household.
In 2008, it was estimated that 683 millions tons of rice is produced in 111 countries worldwide. About 90% of this amount is produced and consumed in Asia. Only 5% of the total rice produced is traded in the international market, leading to volatility in proces and supply.
The rice grain is indeed a very nutritious cereal. It contains Carbohydrates (80%), Protein (8%), Fat (0.5%), Crude Fibre (0.5%) and the rest is made up of moisture, ash, minerals, and vitamins. The fibre, minerals and vitamins are found in the bran layer of unpolished rice. The minerals in rough rice are Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium, and Calcium while the vitamins are Thiamine (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Niacin (Vitamin B3), and Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6).
Consumers in low-income Asian countries get 70% of the calories intake and 60% protein intake from rice. The corresponding figures for medium-income countries are 50% and 30% for calories and protein respectively.
In terms of per capita consumption, people in low-income Asian countries consume about 150-200 kg of rice per person per year. For citizens of the medium-income Asian countries, the amount is 100-150 kg per person per year. In comparison, the average Malaysian consumes about 80 kg of rice per annum.
Not only the livelihood of millions of farmers and rural workers in Asia depend on growing rice as their main source of income, but their way of life, custom, and culture are also strongly influenced by the annual rice cropping cycle.
In fact, the lives of many rural farmers in Asia and in Malaysia still revolve around the growing of this important crop.