Rice crop to come off 'rain, hail or shine'

LOCAL rice growers are nervously watching the heavens as they prepare to harvest a lucrative crop.

If this week's rain continues, it could cause logistical headaches for farmers who would be forced to drive trucks and chaser bins through muddy paddocks over the next week. 

Widgelli farmer Chris Morshead had to cast his mind back to the 1990s to recall the last truly wet harvest.

"It's been a long time since we had a properly wet harvest but if we get 30 to 40mm over the next few days it will cause logistical dramas," Mr Morshead said.

"More rain will cause significant issues as it makes the ground hard to get on to and anyone who got big rain last week is especially nervous.

"We still have to harvest in the wet but it makes it difficult to get wheat into your rice stubble so most blokes would have to go back to rice and, of course, it makes a mess."

Mr Morshead said wet conditions would make his life difficult but the harvest would go ahead rain, hail or shine.

"If what we're hearing holds water, the prices will be significantly up on last year due to drought in the United States and contraction of supply of high quality rice," he said.

"But you don't get paid for it while it's still in the paddock."

SunRice has announced its interim first payment rates for the 2014 crop and they were considerably higher for all varieties than the last crop.

"We are experiencing increased demand for our sushi varieties, Koshihikari and Opus as well as for our Jasmine fragrant varieties, Kyeema and YRF209," SunRice chairman Gerry Lawson said. 

"We will no doubt be calling on our growers to increase production of these varieties in the next crop to be planted later this year."

The rates include $276 per tonne for SunRice's premium Sushi variety Koshihikari and $200 per tonne for the medium grain variety Reiziq.

After the first payment at harvest time, SunRice schedules five additional payments over the course of the marketing year.

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