The prospects for hybrid rice in India


The government of India has set a target of expanding the cultivation of hybrid rice to 25 % of the area occupied by the crop by 2015. Current growth trends suggest that this target will not be met, despite the potential contribution of hybrid rice to lagging growth in national rice yields, overall rice production, land-use reallocation and food security. This unfolding experience suggests a different trajectory from that of China, where hybrid rice accounts for more than half of the area under the crop and has contributed significantly to yield and output growth, reallocation of land to other agriculture and non-agricultural uses and food security. This paper examines the technical challenges, market opportunities, and policy constraints relating to hybrid rice in India.

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  1. 1.

    The eight innovation and delivery hubs included five in India, two in Bangladesh, and one in the Terai region of Nepal. The data and information presented in this paper are drawn from a sample of districts in which CSISA operates in Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Tamil Nadu.

  2. 2.

    Recommended seeding rates ranging from 15 to 30 kg/ha for transplanted hybrid rice, depending on agroecological conditions and other management practices. These seeding rates are generally lower than rates for inbred rice. See Virmani et al. (1998) and Xie and Hardy (2009) for further discussion.

  3. 3.

    Given the high rates of hybrid rice adoption reported in the CSISA baseline survey relative to other sources, it is worth noting possible issues relating to data quality and accuracy. One issue is that although the CSISA baseline survey specifically asked farmers about their familiarity and experience with hybrid rice, it is possible that farmers, enumerators, or both did not accurately distinguish among hybrid rice, high-yielding (modern inbred) rice varieties, and traditional (land race) rice varieties. Alternatively, it is possible that the districts covered by the CSISA baseline survey were characterized by progressive farmers or more vibrant seed and input markets relative to all-India figures, thus resulting in high rates of hybrid adoption. That said, the CSISA baseline survey data are not implausible in light of state-level adoption rates reported by Francis Kanoi Marketing Research (2009).

  4. 4.

    If our objective were to evaluate efforts at promoting hybrid rice in India or to study the determinants of hybrid rice adoption, then pursuing an empirical approach along the lines of Diagne and Demont (2007) would allow us to isolate the average adoption rates among those farmers who had been exposed to hybrid rice, a measure analogous to the average treatment effect from the program evaluation literature. Since we are not attempting to evaluate efforts at promoting hybrid rice or study determinants of adoption, the referenced figures, which do not necessarily characterize the joint distribution of exposure and adoption, do a reasonable job of summarizing the footprint of hybrid rice within the context of Indian rice cultivation.

  5. 5.

    See Tripp and Pal (2001) for an early mention of the private sector’s role in hybrid rice.

  6. 6.

    Higher amylose content (20–25 % or more) gives cooked rice a high volume and dry quality with well-separated grains, whereas a lower amylose content (below 20–25 %) gives cooked rice a moister, stickier quality (IRRI 2012).

  7. 7.

    For example, IR58025A is the female parent for popular Indian hybrids such as PHB 71 marketed by Pioneer Hi-Bred International.

  8. 8.

    By way of comparison, consider that current global investment for maize research is in the order of $1.5 billion, and primarily from the private sector.

  9. 9.

    For example, this precautionary principle was applied to Bt eggplant in India. Although Bt eggplant had reached the advanced stages of India’s regulatory process in 2009, its release became the subject of an indefinite moratorium in 2010.

  10. 10.

    Several experts interviewed for this study suggested that of the more than 100 hybrids in circulation in India, many are imitations and copycats of the popular commercial hybrids from Bayer CropScience and Pioneer Hi-Bred International mentioned earlier.


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This study was prepared as a contribution to the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) with funding from the United States Agency for International Development and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and as a contribution to IFPRI’s wider research agenda on agricultural production technologies with funding from the institute’s Strategic Innovation Fund. The authors thank Tony Cavalieri, Sushil Pandey, Mahabub Hossain, Harun-Ar-Rashid, Achim Doberman, Fangming Xie, Jiming Li, Md. Taj Uddin, Nicholas Magnan, Kajal Gulati, Akhter Ahmed, Xingliang Ma, Vartika Singh, and Mark Rosegrant for their comments, as well as participants who commented on earlier versions of this paper at the 28th Triennial Conference of the International Association of Agricultural Economists, held in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, August 18–24, 2012. The authors also thank Lorena Danessi and Jyotsana Dua for their administrative support. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest, and that any and all errors are the sole responsibility of the authors.

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Spielman, D.J., Kolady, D.E. & Ward, P.S. The prospects for hybrid rice in India. Food Sec. 5, 651–665 (2013).

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  • Hybrid rice
  • Agricultural research and development
  • Technological change
  • Innovation
  • India