Its interesting to see the responses to high food prices in terms of policy recently. Its all about short term solutions rather than addressing the fundamentals. Somehow the development community seems to have come to the conclusion that there is no more life left in agricultural improvement to solve the problem. Not surprising I suppose, when so few Agricultural technical specialists have been hired by the Bank over the past 10 years. In fact there are lots of things that can be done in improving rice productivity, but they have to happen in Asia where rice is grown on large areas now, as well as Africa in the medium term. For starters, Asia has adopted high yield varieties on an average 75% of crop area. In Laos, however, only about 2, perhaps 5% of the area is cropped with such lines. In Cambodia, between 11 and 15%. In many remote areas, just replacing seed that has been constantly replanted without reselection can add 3-40 % to yield. Then there is the fertilizer problem. Sure the absolute rates of application are high- maybe too high. But most of it is urea ( nitrogen), a little is phosphorus but scarcely any is Potassium. Micronutrients are hardly used at all because there are no consistently reliable publicly available soil test labs and because the investment in agricultural outreach has been neglected for years. Instead, in places like the Philippines, subsidies have bred complacency in research funding. Cutting back on urea to pay for more potassium and micronutrients could be an environmental win-win too. In China, for example, potassium deficiency accounts for about 12% of the yield gap . But farmers use nitrogen at up to half a ton per hectare!- because they don't always have good extension and outreach and because potassium is in short supply . Most has to be imported from Canada. The result is that the excess nitrogen is contaminating water bodies, particularly in Yunnan. In Indonesia, though, the situation is worse. On rainfed areas of central Java, potassium at adequate rates boosted yields 58% in trials over a five year period. Similarly, responses are seen in a range of IRRI sponsored long term trials across Asia. Dr Swaminathan,a former Director of IRRI, predicted these problems ten years ago. Of course irrigation systems are only about 40-50% efficient in water delivery and could benefit from not only farmer control of allocation but also a range of canal and system modernization investments. We need to look seriously at a partnership between the Bank, bilateral agencies and IRRI to address these simple measures to improve yields. Cambodia and Indonesia should be joining the exporters club again in the next 5 years. China could boost rice yields at least 5-10% over that time on massive areas. The solution is a combination of long term policy, services and technology. Not short term patches.