Rice cultivation in the early history can be traced as far back as the earliest centuries. During Song dynasty times, new advancements in rice cultivation especially the introduction of new breeds of rice by what was then known as Central Vietnam, and other advancements in water management and irrigation. Rice was initially used as food, although eventually it was also used to make the white wine that is so popular today. Throughout history, people have cultivated rice for food, for ornamental purposes, for teas, and even for fertilizer.
By the time of the imperial China of the early twentieth century, rice farming had become sophisticated. It had become a lucrative agricultural activity for people across Asia. The concept of organic rice cultivation spread throughout the region and soon, with the onset of mass production, it became an important industry for people in all Asia.
In modern times rice is still extensively grown in many tropical areas, particularly in China, India, Vietnam, and the Philippines. In the past few decades, however, the rice cultivation industry has undergone a large growth spurt. With globalization now changing the face of the world economy, rice prices have fallen drastically and with them the opportunities available to people in agricultural sectors across Asia.
In India, the state of Tamil Nadu in Southern India boasts of some of the biggest rice paddies in the country. Tamil Nadu is a major rice producer and exporter in the country. Its rice paddies stretch over more than 800 kilometers, with an estimated production of around a hundred thousand ton of rice per year. These paddies are located near the southernmost tip of India. On plantations owned by the Tamil Nadu government, modern day Tamilian rice is grown on small arable plots (pondai).
There are also other rice producing states in India, some of them experiencing significant declines in rice production. Some of these states are Rajasthan, Kerala, and Karnataka. The declining production in these states has led to a shift in agricultural base that has led to a contraction in rice paddies that mainly grown in coastal states in the south. The states of Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, and Bihar are experiencing declines in rice cultivation. This trend is expected to continue, with farmers in these states either shifting their cultivation base further to the north, or simply not cultivating rice any more.
Another major rice producing and exporter in the country is the State of Maharajas in India. Over half of the rice grown in the State of Maharajas is consumed directly by end users. The rest of the rice is grown for local consumption. Some of the rice paddies located in the talukas (thick forests) of the State of Maharajas are gradually being converted into green chili (chilli plants). This is primarily done to reduce inputs used for irrigation, which accounts for about two-thirds of the state’s rice production.
In addition to the above, there has been a shift in rice production from smallholder farmers to large-scale commercial operations. This shift is largely supported by the Federal and State government. With the liberalization policies implemented in the mid 1990s, there have been a significant increase in the entry of companies from multinational corporations. These companies invest in setting up new rice paddies and farms, as well as investing in irrigation systems to improve productivity. The State of Maharajas also facilitates this transformation by granting various concessions to encourage new development.
There is still a great deal of potential for rice production in the country. Given the current trends, however, it appears that the future prospects for rice production in India are bleak. Crop yield growth is declining at about one to two percent annually. In addition, the major rice-producing states, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, continue to experience water shortages aggravating agricultural productivity. All these factors seem to have had a considerable impact on India’s rice production – despite its overall agricultural importance and progress.