Here's an eye-opening report on the BIGGEST problem facing Asia today — FOOD!
MORE than half of the world's population is dependent on rice for life. It is in this half of the world that hundreds of millions are right now on the brink of starvation. Even in good years these millions are hardly more than a step away from starvation.
A World Problem
The population explosion is eating up every year all the increase in Asia's grain production. What Asians are asking is where will the food come from in bad years? The importance of rice in the life and economy of most Asian nations cannot be easily comprehended by Western observers. No one crop in the Western world has such an impact on the national economy. Indeed it would take a combination of several grains to equal anywhere near the importance in Asia of rice. The subcontinent of India and the small but populous nations of Southeast Asia require a continuous supply of rice for their physical and economic wellbeing. When crops are good, these Asians prosper. When rice output drops, famine sets in. The people languish from lack of proper nutrition. And the governments face serious international as well as internal problems.
The Truth about Rice Production
We are all familiar with the well-known rice paddy. Here rice is grown in a small shallow pond filled with water which is drained at harvest time. There also is an upland variety of rice that can grow without standing water, but both varieties require water and large quantities of it. The monsoon rains of Asia supply this water — usually. Historically there have been long periods of severe drought in these areas. Without water, rice cannot grow. The Philippines is now suffering from a prolonged drought. India is plagued by both drought and floods. Korean production has been hampered by lack of rain. Cold weather and strong winds are other natural enemies of rice production — and they are often a real danger. In most countries rice is planted by hand, tended by hand, harvested by hand. A long, tiring, tedious process transplanting each seedling singly, bending over in knee-deep, muddy water under a devastatingly hot sun. "Planting rice is never fun, bent from morn till the set of sun," goes one native song that describes the tedium of planting rice as it has been done for centuries. Mechanization has been introduced in some countries such as the U.S. and industrialized Japan. But for the vast majority of farmers it is still backbreaking labor assisted only little by the lumbering water buffalo. If the rains don't come, the fields must be irrigated. Water is sometimes available in streams, rivers and wells. But irrigation water is often inaccessible or inadequate. Irrigation pumps are expensive and heavy import duties are imposed upon the pumps and related equipment by uncooperative governments. If irrigation pumps are not available, hand pumping is resorted to. But this can only supply a limited amount of water for a small family farm and cannot enable a farmer to produce a substantial market crop. Generally, there is a tax on fertilizer and high taxes on farming property. Plant diseases often ravage whole provinces in a country. Insects and rodents take a heavy toll in almost every area. After harvesting, rice must be dried. If it is not dried, it will rot. In the unmechanized areas this process is done by laying the rice out in the sun on mats, concrete slabs or even on the edge of highways. If it rains the rice will easily spoil. This method of drying also results in great loss to rodent and insect damage. It is estimated from one fourth to one half of the grain crop is needlessly lost as a consequence.
Unsolved Economic Problems
The U.S., surprisingly, is the world's largest exporter of rice. This is due to the fact that Americans have developed rice production into a highly mechanized and efficient operation. There is, also, no great demand for rice by the American people. This might sound good — people of the so-called have-not nations can eat American rice. But this huge supply of low-cost rice fosters another problem. The U.S. can sell rice at a lower price, placing the inefficient rice-producing countries in an unfavorable competitive position. The major problem is to find some way of helping the inefficient rice producer and preventing him from being economically destroyed by efficient producers. Rice production in developing nations is far from efficient. Asia's agricultural nations need rice for export. It is primarily through the exportation of rice that they acquire international monetary credit. If they have enough rice to export, they can expect to have a favorable balance of payments. They will have income to be spent on products which they need but do not themselves produce. Rice, therefore, is the important commodity in the economy of the great rice-producing nations. Of course if all rice nations produce a surplus rice crop, there will be less international market for rice. If there is little demand for rice, the nations cannot sell their surpluses abroad and the price of rice drops in the producing country itself. When this happens, the farmers are paid less for all of their labor. A vicious circle sets in. Quite often they will transfer their land from rice production to something more lucrative. The next harvest season therefore finds a smaller supply of rice available and the people are in need again. If there is not enough rice grown in a rice-producing country that country must go to some surplus-producing country for its badly needed rice. Valuable international monetary credit is spent for food the people should have grown for themselves. Generally, the currency of a developing nation is considered a "soft currency" and other nations do not want to honor it. Most countries want payment in U.S. dollars or other stable money. If the buying nation does not have dollars, or credit with the selling nation, it cannot buy rice even if the price is very low. Some nations actually borrow rice from other nations, promising to pay rice back after several years. How these developing nations can be helped is a big problem facing world leaders.
Now look at international politics. Should a non-communist nation purchase rice from a communist nation? Many do. Communist China, for example, exports rice to British Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Pakistan, South African Republic, Canada, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Other grains are often traded back and forth. Australian or Canadian wheat eventually go to Communist China and Russia. It is not just a problem of feeding the starving millions of Asia. Very important economic manipulations of far-reaching influence must be made by participating nations. Asia's governments are using rice as a means of improving their economic stability and growth — sometimes at the expense of the individual citizens of the nation. Even India and Pakistan exported some of their grains in 1968 in spite of the fact that they have a history of continuing famine. They felt compelled to do this to increase their international balance of payments. All of these nations are striving to improve their production of rice and to improve the prices of that rice on the world markets so that their governments can continue to function. One nation even went so far as to grow for export high-income-producing tobacco and poppy seeds (for opium) on its valuable farmland. Its leaders then asked for and received food from the U.S.!
A large number of rice-producing countries have recently become self-sustaining in the production of rice and many are able to export surpluses. But there is no indication that this high production level will continue. India experienced good crops in the 1967-68 season. But the 1968-69 season is being hindered by severe drought in some states and by severe flooding in other areas. Korea has a serious shortage of rice this year due to drought. The Philippines did not import rice in 1968 because of a surplus. But this was the first time they could make this claim. Prospects aren't good for this year's crop. Right now the Philippines is being ravaged by a long and serious drought! Farmers are worried that their crops will fail and the nation's small surplus will be wiped out unless rains come soon. The cost of rice to the consumer did not drop as a result of the 1968 surplus. Unless "normal" rainy seasons can be expected there is little indication that rice-producing nations can be permanently self-sustaining. Floods, droughts and other dangerous weather conditions have always been experienced in Asia. Unless the weather can be controlled there is no guarantee of continuing good crops year after year.
So important is rice that the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations held, in the end of March, its 13th session entitled "A Study Group on Rice." Representatives from the major rice-producing and rice-consuming nations from all over the world met in a week-long series of conferences in Manila, the Philippines. They discussed the overwhelming economic importance of rice. A mountain of questions were left not discussed. The insurmountable problems seemed, to these assembled experts, so vast as to be without definition, let alone analysis and correction. One report at the FAO Conference drew much attention. It involved the introduction of new rice varieties — mainly hybrids. The new varieties produce more rice per land area than the old varieties as long as large quantities of commercial fertilizer (high in nitrogen) are added to the soil. Unfortunately these encouraging developments mean very little when examined for what they really are. In using the new hybrid rice varieties, especially those developed by the International Rice Research Institute, several drawbacks have been encountered. Rice varieties were developed that give higher and higher yields as more fertilizer (nitrogen) is applied. This appears good in that you get a lot more grain from the same amount of soil — for the time being — if conditions are ideal. Also, another of the major drawbacks to these hybrid varieties is that the consumers — the people — do not like to eat them. In some areas, people, being used to flavorful, locally produced rice, will not buy the new varieties of rice at all. In such cases it must be transported to areas of the country where the people will accept inferior grain. Some new varieties are highly susceptible to tropical disease and, as already mentioned, they require huge amounts of expensive commercial fertilizer. Oftentimes these varieties will sprout before they are planted, which of course ruins the grain. There is also a big question about the nutritional quality of the developed grain. Lack of flavor is usually to be associated with lack of quality. Some studies show that high concentrations of chemical nitrogen in the soil tend eventually to destroy the very important microbial life of the ground. Also chemical nitrogen stimulates speedy consumption of the soil's organic residues — humus — without which the health and fertility-producing microbes cannot thrive. Researchers feel confident that they can overcome each of these objections. But the fact remains that experimenters have been working on new varieties for over seventy years and the problems still exist. Some feel it is an impossible task.
Each FAO member nation is striving to improve its own particular situation — its self-interest. It has been suggested that there be some means of notifying all nations about the worldwide supply and demand situation of rice so that the nations could adjust their production accordingly. For example, if there is a severe rice shortage developing on one area, other nations could step up production to avoid serious famine conditions. Or if there is a surplus, other nations could cut back on their production, thereby eliminating devastating surpluses that would drop the price of rice to a completely uneconomical level. But this suggestion was buried at the conference under much discussion about wording, phrasing, limits of authority and other points of order. Finally, it was suggested the point be withdrawn! Emphasis was on making more money for national governments, the producers and the brokers. Nothing was really offered as a solution to feeding the hungry. Remember India and Pakistan were exporters of rice even when some of their citizens were starving. Why export? Because governments need the money to survive. But what about those that are starving? Are there any solutions to these painfully complex questions? The answer is, yes!
Just what was lacking from the agenda of the study group? The emphasis was on more and more rice for economic reasons, but the individual citizen was all but forgotten. Nothing was discussed concerning the diet of the people themselves. It takes more than rice to produce healthy bodies. People need a more balanced diet — but few understand what a sound diet consists of. Most rice is highly polished. Essential nutrients have been removed and only the starchy portion left. Some so-called authorities have made the statement that refining of products such as sugar, rice and other grains remove only the dirt. But the people of Southeast Asia often have beriberi as a result of not getting the very nutrients discarded in rice polishing. The rice polishing are fed to hogs or sold to people as high-priced vitamin preparations by drug firms. People in Asia, as in most parts of the world, do not know what to eat, what is good for them or the very basic nutritional requirements of a human body. The FAO had to limit itself to studying the economic problems — not what is good for the people. Everyone assumed weather conditions and international relations are going to improve greatly in the next few years. But every indication points to just the opposite!
The Real Solution
There is a RIGHT WAY and there are definite solutions to the seemingly insurmountable problems presented by this FAO study on rice. Simply stated, it will take a three-point program to bring about the lasting surplus desired by all. First, an EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM must be established to teach people the right way to live. Farmers must be taught the best, most efficient way to grow crops. This is not being done today, most are being wrongly taught and as a result their land is not producing as much as it should. What is worse, they are destroying their land in the process. More commercial fertilizer is not the answer for increased nutritious food. Chemical fertilizers are frequently charged with lowering the protein content and impairing the flavor of food crops. New varieties of rice that require large amounts of nitrogen are not the solution. There is a right way of farming that is not being taught to farmers of the world today. Farmers must be educated in the right way to produce in order to achieve economic stability. Producers and handlers of foodstuff must be taught how to take care of their products. A better way of processing and handling food — with people, not profits in mind — must be introduced. Secondly, people must be taught how they should live. They need instruction on how to take care of and prepare their food properly. This is not being done. Highly refined food does not provide the proper nutrients. A diet of these foods results in weakness, sickness, disease and often death. Whole nations are undernourished — sick! Even if they could get enough rice, if it is not properly prepared, people are going to continue to be undernourished and die long before they should. Thirdly, a central group must be established with absolute authority to act for the good of all people and all nations. If one nation is in need, other nations should help them. What crops need to be grown, what is economically, agriculturally and nutritionally sound must be decided by a central authority and their plans instituted and carried out by all nations. Crops of an unessential or destructive nature should be eliminated. Tons of poppy seeds are grown on badly needed agricultural land today for the production of dangerous drugs. Acres and acres of rich farmland are now cultivated in tobacco. The central authority should eliminate these unnecessary items and cause people to grow good food. The central authority would have to enforce cooperation and not competition among the nations. All nations helping all other nations. Nations working together, truly united for the good of all, unlike the competitive system we are operating today. And what about the unpredictable weather? Something should be done so that rains can be expected in due season. It will happen, and that within a few years! This three-point program is now being introduced and the new educational system is already in effect on a small scale. It will soon be extended to all nations. Read the astounding free booklet that outlines this new, fantastically effective system designed to eliminate famine and want for every man, woman and child in the world. The name of the booklet is The Wonderful World Tomorrow - What It Will Be Like. You will be amazed at the simplicity of the program and the tremendous fruits it will bear. This may sound oversimplified. But see for yourself! Soon there will be good-quality rice — and everything else — in abundance with enough for everyone. You can have a part in educating the world in this new way of life. You and your children can begin to experience the joy and happiness of plenty right now! Read this vitally important booklet today and see why! See for yourself what YOUR part will be in that wonderful world tomorrow!