As a cereal grain, Rice is the most widely consumed staple food for a large part of the world’s human population, especially in Asia and the West Indies. It is the grain with the second-highest worldwide production, after maize (corn), according to data for 2010. Since a large portion of maize crops are grown for purposes other than human consumption, rice is the most important grain with regard to human nutrition and caloric intake, providing more than one fifth of the calories consumed worldwide by the human species.
Rice is a major food staple and a mainstay for the rural population and their food security. It is mainly cultivated by small farmers in holdings of less than 1 hectare. Rice is also a wage commodity for workers in the cash crop or non-agricultural sectors. Rice is vital for the nutrition of much of the population in Asia, as well as in Latin America the Caribbean and in Africa; it is central to the food security of over half the world population. Developing countries account for 95% of the total production, with China and India alone responsible for nearly half of the world output.
As of 2009 world food consumption of rice was 531,639 thousands metric tons of paddy equivalent (354,603 of milled equivalent), while the far largest consumers were China consuming 156,312 thousands metric tons of paddy equivalent (29.4% of the world consumption) and India consuming 123,508 thousands metric tons of paddy equivalent (23.3% of the world consumption). Between 1961 and 2002, per capita consumption of rice increased by 40%.