The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is calling for global communities to focus on what they call a ‘rice price crisis’ as the staple sees a 70% rise in the past year, with more increases expected.

As the demand for rice is currently outstripping production, more research is needed into how to increase productivity, says the Philippines-based body.

“The problems related to rice production and supply in Asia over the past year or more are cause for serious concern, but not for panic,” said Elizabeth Woods, chair of IRRI’s board of trustees. “What we need is the committed support of donors and policymakers as well as better awareness among the media and general public of the problems we face.”

The IRRI said there were several factors behind the rise in rice prices.

Land for producing rice is being lost to industrialisation, the growing appetite for meat and dairy among Asia’s middle class is leading to less land for production, and flooding in Indonesia and Bangladesh has had an negative effect.

Several rice-producing countries have already put curbs on exports in recent weeks, but the Institute is calling for a reduction in the existing yield gaps, an acceleration on the delivery of new post harvest technologies and for more research into rice breeding and the introduction of higher yielding rice varities.

“The problems facing rice production in Asia are not unique to one country; they are shared by nearly all the rice-consuming nations of Asia. We must recognise the global scale of the problem, especially the fact that many African nations depend on Asian rice production for their food security,” added Woods.

As well as rise, the prices of wheat, corn and soybeans are also reaching historic highs.