Rice production began in China around 2500 B.C., then quickly spread through other parts of Asia before moving westward. Rice belongs to the larger class of cereal grains and ranks among the most widely cultivated staple foods in the world. Its introduction begins with ancient Chinese emperors, who ultimately created numerous varieties and strains that exist today.
Historians credit the origins of rice to the emperor Shennong of China. In addition to introducing rice to the world, Shennong receives credit for establishing China's agricultural sector.Rice proved hardy, nutritious and easy to grow, making its popularity increase worldwide. Several distinct species of rice began in China, but new strains appeared elsewhere as rice production spread to ancient Greece and later to Europe and North America. In 300 B.C., invading armies, namely those of Alexander the Great, brought rice from China back to the western Asian nations and the Mediterranean. Around 800 B.C., rice made its way to Africa through increasing trade with the Asian nations.
Today, rice production thrives in Asia, Africa, parts of Europe and the United States. Rice growers still use traditional harvesting methods in Asia and produce approximately one acre's worth of rice in several hundred hours. In the United States, modern machinery lets workers extract an acre of rice in under 10 hours. Rice continues to form the base of many international cuisines, and appears in white, brown and even purple colors.