Ricegrower and 2016 Nuffield Scholar Drew Braithwaite is confident that Griffith’s rice industry can retain its providence if certain reforms are adopted.
Griffith’s rice industry has fallen on turbulent times since 2000, with vast fluctuations in quantity and quality characterizing the harvests over the period called the millennium drought.
Since 2017 water prices have been pushing many farmers toward re-purposing their farms for cotton which uses almost 30 percent less water.
Finding possible reforms for Australia’s rice industry was the subject of Mr Braithwaite’s studies to Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, Israel, The Netherlands, and Vietnam under the Nuffield scholarship.
Mr Braithwaite says that much of whats holding back rice in Griffith is the unpredictability of prices and greater potential risk facing rice producers when planting.
Cotton producers have the option to price their crops even before planting by deciding whether or not to sell their crops on a future market contract which gives growers the option to, at times, make their farming operations less risky by allowing them to enter into a contract which will guarantee a fixed price to sell prior to harvesting.
Future market contracts do mean producers will miss out on potential profits if the price of a crop suddenly rises across other markets, something buyers want to avoid.
However, the benefit of cotton farmers of having the option to price their crops before planting is that it gives them a base on which to make informed decisions about how much return they can get for how the plant.
Internationally and domestically there are no established future markets for Australian rice to be sold on.
Also Mr Braithwaite said that the Australian industry including Sunrice focuses on producing medium grain rice of a superior quality internationally, and is highly susceptible to drops in quality caused by drought.
As such the rice industry should focus on is how to reduce the variations in the quantity and quality of produce due to rainfall.
The report says Australia’s rice industry needs to ensure national rice production finds and keeps a “sweet spot, that maximizes market price, asset efficiency, and minimizes market supply risk.” Australia also needs to find sources of rice that are not marketed on their provenance qualities in case of production failures in Australia, the industry should also be value adding branded products from other crops in the rice system such as cereals grown in winter.
To ensure consistent supply the report suggests a program of premiums be introduced to reward consistent producers on a three year basis.
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