The Islamic Organization for Food Security (IOFS) organized the first virtual meeting of Center of Excellence for Development of Rice of Asia Group II on October 21, 2020. The national research institutions representing their host countries: Iran, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan, gathered to discuss the perspectives and challenges of rice development in the Asian region and define the work plan of the proposed Centers. The establishment of Centers of Excellence follows up the Resolution N° 1/46-E on the Development of Strategic Commodities (wheat, rice, and cassava), adopted at the 46th Council of Foreign Ministers in Abu Dhabi on March 1-2, 2019. Rice is one of top three staple crops, (including wheat and maize) that provide more than half of all calories consumed by the entire human population. Rice cultivation in the OIC region accounted for 23% of total world production. In the global context, 90% of the world’s rice production and consumption occurs in Asia. The main objective of Centers of Excellence for Rice is to provide a platform for knowledge and experience exchange between the academia from OIC/IOFS countries. Such format would enable the member states to enhance their human and technological capacities and contribute to the rice development activities in their designated areas. As the OIC ASG for Science and Technology, H.E. Askar Mussinov noted, ‘agriculture occupies the central stage in the development strategies of all nations. This is even more important for OIC countries, where more than 50% of the total population live in rural areas, and depend on agriculture for their livelihood.’ In support of the Centers of Excellence, Director-General of IOFS H.E. Yerlan Baidaulet stated that ‘along with traditional approaches, advanced and innovative solutions are needed to determine new strategic guidelines for the development of rice industry’. Over 30 experts have taken part in the event, with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and International Center for Bio- saline Agriculture (ICBA) featured as Observers. The participating scientists shared the history of their national research institutions, their rice breeding programs and country experience in the cultivation of rice. They recounted current pressing issues of the rice development, shared the research conducted, their perspectives and plans, and proposed solutions.
Dr. Shahram Mahmoud Soltani on behalf of the Director-General of the rice research institute of Iran, Dr. Maryam Hossaini Chaleshtori, in this event with representation of the advantage of Islamic Republic of Iran in rice research and development in G2 group said: The Director-General requested me to express, on his behalf, our thanks and gratitude to the IOFS for this new collaboration platform, hosting this program, and for all the facilities which will undoubtedly highly contribute to the success of this new idea. This knowledge-sharing platform among the various training and research institutions in OIC/IOFS member states will prepare a brilliant opportune time to contact, collaborate, and discuss our abilities, interests, problems, and future plans to improve the rice sector in the G2 region the same as our previous collaborations. The Islamic Republic of Iran had two decades experiences of teaching and training of rice expertise of central and west Asia and can share this knowledge and experiences with the G2 countries. In continue, he stated the suggestion of Iran for the rice research and development in the G2 region in 4 steps program in title of Capacity Building on Rice Research and Development. He finished his speech with some clear suggestions such as establishment of regional seed bank center, regional network of rice germplasm exchange (RNRG) and permanent secretariat office of the G2 group in rice research institute of Iran. Moreover, the RRII suggested the following joint-project with the others member: 1- Abiotic stress (focus on drought, salinity and alkalinity problems) with Pakistan , 2- Machinery join project with Turkey and 3- Climate change joint projects with all the G2 members