Rice is the seed of the monocot plant Oryza sativa, of the grass family (Poaceae). As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world's human population, especially in tropical Latin America, the West Indies, East, South and Southeast Asia. Since a large portion of maize crops are grown for purposes other than human consumption, rice is probably the most important grain with regards to human nutrition and caloric intake, providing more than one fifth of the calories consumed worldwide by the human species.  A traditional food plant in Africa, rice has the potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare.  In early 2008, some governments and retailers began rationing supplies of the grain due to fears of a global rice shortage. 
In the southern United States, rice has been grown in southern Arkansas, Louisiana, and east Texas since the mid 1800s. Many Cajun farmers grew rice in wet marshes and low lying prairies where they could also farm crayfish when the fields were flooded. In recent years rice production has risen in North America, especially in the Mississippi River Delta areas in the states of Arkansas and Mississippi.