- When and where did rice emerge historically?
The origin of rice has always been a debatable issue because of a multiplicity of archaeological sites that have evidence on rice planting in China, India, Thailand and parts of Africa. According to Chang (n.d.) the Chinese believe that rice originated from their country and this notion is supported by genetic studies on rice. This is backed up by the fact that China has a lot of wild rice. Rice is said to have been planted in China as early as 2700 BC. In the 1920s rice glume imprints which were dated 3200-2500 BC were discovered in North China. China is also said to have spread the consumption of rice to East Africa by 800 AD through trade. Alexander the Great is believed to have brought rice to the western parts of Asia and Greece (Duke University, n.d.). In America rice was first grown in California where it is believed to have been brought either by shipwrecked sailors or African slaves who had previously grown it their ancestral home.
- Where was rice grown?
There is evidence to suggest that rice was first grown in Asia especially in India and China. The two main varieties were Japonica and Indica which were domesticated from wild rice called Rufipogon (Molina et.al, 2011). The plant was also grown in parts of West Africa from where it is believed to have spread to America through the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Later on the production of rice spread to other areas in the world. The plant was produced using flood waters or irrigated paddies along river banks. However, there were many varieties of wild rice that grew wildly in various suitable places especially in Asia (Chang, n.d.). The methods of rice production have not changed a lot since that period because the crop still requires a lot of water to grow and human labor it still very crucial especially in the early stages of production.
- What people, doing what jobs, where grew rice?
Women were predominantly the ones who cultivated rice in the world in its developmental stages. In California rice was cultivated by African women slaves. This group carried out various activities including sowing, weeding, processing and weeding the crop. In America, generally, slave labor was used to grow rice. Many of them became disabled due to hard physical labor. Enslaved African men were mainly engaged in preparing the final product for shipping (NPS, n.d.). In Asia rice cultivation initially excluded women. Presently all genders participate in all the processes involved in rice production. Hired labor is also utilized especially for those who have the means. In spite of this, women in Asia still do not participate fully in decision-making on rice farming and there have been efforts to bridge gender disparities (Paris, 2013).
- Inputs necessary to rice production
Rice is a crop which requires a lot of water to grow. It is therefore planted in paddies, along river banks and other places where huge amounts of water can be directed into farms. This explains why there are many irrigation projects all over the world involving rice. Paddy rice is also grown in flood-prone areas. The drawback is that unlike other plants that can be grown in drier areas, rice can only grow well where there is water (Nesbitt, Simpson & Svanberg, n.d). Another important input in rice farming is fertilizer. This is because the soil where rice is implanted will over time lose essential nutrients which must be replenished through fertilizers for continued production. However, the price of fertilizer is on the rise all over the world. In addition, fertilizer use tends to weaken the soil and, coupled with agro-chemicals, kills essential microbes in the soils.
- Who tends to eat rice and how has this changed over time?
Rice in consumed in all the corners of the globe. It is arguably the most eaten food in the world (Duke University, n.d.). It is consumed by persons of all ages, races, genders, ethnicity and socio-economic class. Although rice preparation may vary all over the world depending on the community or households cooking it, there is no indication that rice has ever been reserved for a particular gender, social class, age or ethnicity. Countries in the developing world take rice to be part of food security. It is the staple food in most of Asia and it is estimated that Africa will follow suit (IRRI, n.d). Rice has continued to feed billions of human beings all over the world from the time it started being grown to the present. Contemporary society is more dependent on rice than previous ones because of increased population.
- How is rice marketed or advertised? Where, in what media? Who is the intended audience? How has this changed over time?
Rice is marketed all over the world by companies that purchase the rice from farmers. Most rice is found in retail stores in commercial centers and also at the points of production in rural areas. Rice does not require a lot of marketing because it is a common food product. However, because some people prefer different varieties, manufacturing companies often advertise on print and electronic media. The intended audience of these advertisements on rice is the common person, households, the hospitality and catering industries, institutions and anyone who consumes rice. This implies that every person on the globe is the target of advertisements on rice. For a product that is a staple food globally, the only thing that may have changed in advertising of rise is the packaging and the marketing of varieties that have been developed over time. Otherwise, the product remains the same.
- What has changed in how rice is produced and what is the global implication of this?
Rice has transformed the world because it is one of the most eaten staple in the world. There is hardly any country on the globe where rice is not consumed. This has led to increase in production of rice especially in terms of large scale production in order to meet rising demand. Many governments have invested in irrigation projects for rice and have commercialized the process of production. This has resulted in more rice in the market. In Asia, a population of 3.3 billion people derives most of its calorie needs from this important crop (Duke University, n.d.). This explains why a lot of rice production is still in the hands of small-scale farmers who grow it for domestic consumption and sale in local markets. Rice is a global crop not only because it is grown all over the world but also because it is marketed in every corner of the globe.
There are, however, concerns that China’s consumption is threatening the availability of rise in the rest of the world. China was for a long time a global exporter but recent population trends have turned the most populous nation on earth into a mass importer (Cui 2013). The ability of China to purchase most of the rice from the market will create deficiencies in some areas in the globe especially surrounding Asian nations like Pakistan and Vietnam. The trend is also fuelled by rice being expensive in the local Chinese market and cheap in neighboring countries. Consequently, there is need to analyze the rice market globally and institute measures that will ensure rice is available and affordable for the common person. In addition, research organizations need to form a global research front to ensure they have rice varieties that are inconformity with climate change implications.
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