WITH one of the best rice crops in many years expected to be stripped in the coming months, hope and jobs are returning to the region.
The 2021 Riverina rice crop is expected to total more than 450,000 paddy tonnes when harvesting commences in March, the SunRice Group is currently hiring employees across its operations to facilitate increased production.
The crop is the largest since 2018, and expected to be more than 10 times the size of the 2020 crop which was the second-smallest on record due to drought, high water prices and low water availability - exacerbated by the impacts of water reform.
The SunRice Group is currently hiring a significant number of seasonal positions for its Australian Grain Storage operations to enable the receival and storage of the crop once harvesting starts.
SunRice is also hiring additional positions to commence after May 1 across its Leeton and Deniliquin mills, to enable the processing and packaging of the crop into high-value branded products for sale to consumers and customers in domestic and international markets.
From May 1 production is expected to ramp back up at Deniliquin and Leeton Mills to a 24 hours a day, five days a week configuration and then increase further at Leeton later this year.
However, there does remain some bad news.
At the peak of the increased demand in 2020, caused by changes to consumer shopping patterns and a smaller crop, SunRice was anticipating exhaustion of remaining supplies prior to December 31.
Therefore a period of ceased production will mean employees may be required to take periods of leave from late March to early April.
This period of ceased production is not expected to exceed two weeks across the Leeton and Deniliquin mills.
Affected employees have been offered short-term redeployment and training where possible, which may include at receival and storage facilities, and also at the rice cakes facility in Leeton (for Leeton-based employees).
"While we are pleased that conditions have improved significantly to allow the planting of a much larger Riverina rice crop, there will unfortunately be a short gap between when we exhaust remaining supplies of rice and when the next crop is harvested," SunRice chief executive officer Rob Gordon said.
"We are working with our employees to minimise disruption, and are offering redeployment and training opportunities across other operations where possible.
IN OTHER NEWS:
"While there is this period of ceased production, we are pleased to be currently hiring for a number of additional roles across our Leeton and Deniliquin mills to process the much larger 2021 crop once it has been harvested in April.
"We are also recruiting a significant number of casuals at our Australian Grain Storage facilities across the Riverina to receive and store the paddy from our growers throughout the harvest in March and April."