Rice harvest projects best year in three

SunRice is predicting a bumper rice yield this year, but the benefits are unlikely to reach Riverina farmers due to exceptionally low market prices.

Their predictions show the yield could reach 800,000 tonnes, making it the largest in three years.

Murrami farmer and Murrumbidgee Valley Food and Fibre Association president, Deb Buller said although the predictions are great for SunRice, it won’t make too much difference to the farmers themselves.

“It is not a record-breaking crop from our perspective,” she said.

“That’s not to say it’s not good but with prices being where they are for rice at the moment the current price, we stand to make less than we did with a smaller haul last year.”

The projections would see a rise in the production of rice of over 200 per cent from last year's harvest which was affected by a low allocation of water.

Plentiful rainfall in the winter and spring, although caused frustration to farmers at the time, has proven to be a handy addition for rice farmers.

The favourable growing conditions of warmer days and nights from mid-December to mid-February contributed to the excellent establishment of the crop and has led to the bountiful harvest.

Although according to Mrs Buller there is one reason for the expected yield standing above the rest, the availability of water.

Mrs Buller said the 100 per cent water allocation across the Murray and Murrumbidgee Valleys, and the water costing between $20 and $40 per megalitre played a role in farmers’ decisions.

“Since water was so much more available we planted as much as we could,” she said.

“That and with the mild season it will lead to the total tonnage which for SunRice is great but at the farm gate we are unlikely to see too many benefits cash wise from it.”

SunRice general manager AGS, grower services and agronomic development, Todd Howard felt it was a great result for farmers, SunRice and the industry, as well as for local and international customers who value Australian grown rice.

"Rice’s flexibility and adaptability, and the skill of growers to successfully establish a crop,” he said.

“And despite the late start to planting due to the spring deluge, they have certainly shone through this year.

“After last year’s smaller than usual crop of 245,000 tonnes, as a result of lower water allocations, it’s been exciting to see so many growers return to rice this year.

“It has cemented it as the summer crop of choice across the Riverina.”

After the late start to the season, harvest is expected to finish next month.