Statement by the Chair of the IRRI Board of Trustees for the year ended 31 December 2019

2019 was a significant year with regards to the advancement of IRRI’s mandate of creating impact. The institute continues to pursue and strengthen relationships with governments and private sector partners around the world, taking the lead in strategic initiatives and supporting transformative innovations in both policy and technology. Research remains a core strength, as numerous projects in IRRI Headquarters, the South Asia Regional Centre in India, and the regions gain momentum and deliver key outputs. While the global financial situation continues to be challenging, enhanced management of resources and fiscal responsibility have led to the institute’s first net surplus in six years.

Financial highlights

IRRI continues to be the lead center for the CGIAR Research Program on Rice (RICE CRP), joined by the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), and over 600 other partners across the globe. RICE CRP aims to address nine  of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDCs) and 26 of their 169 targets. The RICE CRP has been approved for operation through 2021.

Despite continued budget cuts in the CGIAR Fund in 2019, IRRI’s financial position remains stable, with total assets of USD 73.664 million compared with USD 83.829 million in 2018. The decrease of USD 10.165 million was balanced by a corresponding decrease in total liabilities and net assets. The liquidity and long-term stability indicators remained above CGIAR benchmarks. After six (6) consecutive years of losses, IRRI reported a net surplus of USD 1.187 million in 2019.

In 2019, IRRI’s grant portfolio was USD 63.791 million, which included USD 4.063 million of RICE CRP Windows 1 and 2 funds for the flagship expenses of our CGIAR partners, AfricaRice and CIAT. 

In 2018, the Institute's financial statements became fully compliant to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and are now aligned with international quality standards for financial reporting that are recognized inter alia by donors, the banking industry, partners, and potential collaborators. Further, compliance to this standard allows for comparability with other organizations and enhances the annual audit report.

Excellence in research

IRRI continues to advance cutting-edge research and research support for the benefit of its partner countries and the global scientific community. In November, the institute and its collaborators launched Asi@Connect RiceStats Database, a cloud-based resource for rice sector statistics and analysis. The platform, the first of its kind in Asia, consolidates socio-economic and other data from disaggregated local and international sources and provides an accessible one-stop reference for agricultural and social scientists, academia, policymakers, and other stakeholders.


Our scientists are also opening up new fronts in the race against one of agriculture’s most implacable foes, bacterial blight. Published in Nature last October, IRRI and its partners in the Healthy Crops Research Consortium have been able to replicate, through genome editing, a tactic some rice varieties have against invading pathogens - starving the disease of the nutrients it needs to survive and spread. While research and trials are still ongoing, this pioneering and innovative approach has exciting possibilities down the road for broad-spectrum pathogen resistance, not just for rice but also for other crops such as wheat, corn, and cassava. 


The institute’s commitment to rigorous and world-class science is duly reflected in our recent accreditation by Excellence Through Stewardship, a global nonprofit that promotes universal standards for stewardship programs and quality management systems. While the audit period usually takes three years, IRRI was able to complete it in just two, a remarkable feat that attests to the expertise and dedication of our managers and scientists.

Partnerships for impact

In April, IRRI sat down with CGIAR sister centers WorldFish and the International Water Management Institute to sign a five-year agreement for research for development cooperation in enhancing rice-fish production systems in South and Southeast Asia. This new partnership, which builds on previous successful collaborations by the three institutes, is aligned with CGIAR plans to usher in a food systems revolution by 2030, and serves as a model for greater cooperation between centers in tackling multifaceted global challenges. 


IRRI is also strengthening its presence in Africa through a new partnership with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation. Their extensive network in 23 African nations will greatly contribute to IRRI’s delivery of improved seed varieties and sustainable practices to smallholder farmers and can lay the groundwork for the institute’s long-term commitment and impact to the African rice sector.

Partnerships for impact

Other highlights of the year include the landmark approval of Golden Rice for direct use in food and feed or for processing in the Philippines; the publication of a study that shows Philippine farmers enjoyed a significant income increase of around $231USD per hectare through the use of resource-efficient Green Super Rice varieties; and the report that the CORIGAP-PRO project surpassed its goal a year ahead of schedule, disseminating rice cultivation best practices to over 600,000 smallholder farmers across six countries.


As we race to create an impact on global rice systems in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals, the Board would like to extend its gratitude to all IRRI staff and management for their commitment to the institute’s mission, and also to our global partners and investors for supporting us in our efforts.

Jim Godfrey
Board of Trustees