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“This year’s crop weighed in at more than 960,000 tonnes, or enough to feed at least 23 million people around the world every day for the next year,” Senator Joe Ludwig said during his recent visit to Sunrise’s Leeton Mill.
Senator Ludwig is the Australian Government Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Flood Recovery.
The agriculture minister visited the Leeton Mill with representatives of SunRice and the Ricegrowers Association, and said it was pleasing to see such a positive outlook for the industry as it continues to recover from serious drought.
Leeton is home to the headquarters of the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia, along with processing and marketing company SunRice. It was the first town to be established as part of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area.
“That’s good news for the growers and Australia’s rice communities, but also for the world.
“The number of people this industry feeds and the products it produces make it a credit to the growers.”
Last year the government amended regulations to maintain the rice levy at $3.00 a tonne at the request of industry funds to maintain a robust R&D program for the Australian rice industry, a report from Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry said.
Australia’s rice industry
Here are some facts about Australia’s rice industry as gleaned from the Ricegrowers Association website:
Rice was the founding industry for many irrigation towns in Southern NSW and Northern Victoria.
Since its establishment, the industry has employed thousands of people across regional Australia; predominately in the Riverina region of NSW. It now contributes significantly to the economic health of those regions.
It’s estimated that every $1 of rice production equates to $6 in flow on economic activity*.
There are about 1600 farm businesses growing rice in the Murrumbidgee Valley of NSW and the Murray Valley of NSW and Victoria with each farm having an average size of around 400 hectares.
Australia farmers must meet stringent regulations in order to be allowed to grow rice. These policies seek to provide an even distribution of water over the landscape and balance hydraulic pressure on the water table.
In the Murrumbidgee Valley, rice is grown on no more than one-third of each farm. In the Murray Valley, there is a total hydraulic load limit of 4 megalitres per hectare averaged over the entire farm.
Rice is only grown on approved heavy, clay soil that minimises seepage into water tables. Soil tests must show more than three metres of heavy, continuous clay to allow for unrestricted rice growing.
No rice crop grows within 150 metres of a watercourse.
Rice is the only agricultural crop to be subject to rigorous restrictions relating to industry targets for water usage.
The limits are set by irrigation companies and should those levels be exceeded, the farmer must attend an interview with the company. It can result in restrictions on the use of individual paddocks for the following year, or the banning of rice production in those paddocks.
Irrigation companies conduct careful monitoring of drainage water entering drainage schemes, to ensure it meets environmental standards.
The Australian major ricegrowers towns are Leeton, Griffith, Deniliquin, and Coleambally. The towns of Hay, Finley, Barham, Wakool and Moulamein are also heavily dependent on the rice industry.
Australia’s rice industry has three major players: Rice Marketing Board for the State of NSW, Ricegrowers’ Ltd (SunRice), and Ricegrowers Association.
The marketing board issues domestic marketing licenses and has the sole and exclusive export licence. SunRice processes and markets Australian rice food products both in Australia and overseas. Ricegrowers Association represents rice growers, formulates policy and strategy development and supports grower development and rice research.