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Less rice predicted for Deniliquin region

Deniliquin rice stakeholders have predicted the 2013-14 rice season will fall short of last year's record.

TYLA HARRINGTON January 14, 2014 4:45am

Local rice stakeholders believe the 2013-14 rice season has been extremely challenging, with some agronomists tipping a 40 per cent reduction in rice in the local area.

The 2012-2013 harvest yielded a record 1.2 million tonnes of rice, but weather conditions and water prices have impacted heavily this year.

SunRice is still calculating the official yield figures and, pending the research, would not make a prediction.

Elders Deniliquin agronomist Adam Dellwo, however, said high water prices have resulted in less rice being planted in the local area.

‘‘Prices spiked early on and deterred people from putting in rice. Overall there will certainly be less rice than last year.’’

Mr Dellwo also said cold temperatures and windy conditions had contributed to one of ‘‘the most challenging seasons for a long time’’.

He believes the Deniliquin area will harvest 30 to 40 per cent less rice than last year.

‘‘There were a lot of problems establishing crops early on,’’ Mr Dellwo said.

‘‘The cold weather and wind affected the crops. Once it gets under 14°C is when crops can be damaged.

‘‘We usually get wind in October but this season we’ve had it in October, November, December and even now.

‘‘When there’s wind it’s hard for things to establish and plants don’t anchor to the ground.

‘‘There were also a mob of isolated ducks around but overall ducks haven’t been a big issue.

‘‘Crops are looking good now with the hot weather predicted for this week – it’s absolutely what we need.’’

Murray Local Land Services senior land service officer (mixed farming system) John Fowler agreed, saying many Murray Valley rice growers have rated the 2013-14 rice season as one of their ‘‘most difficult’’.

He also cited difficult weather conditions in October and November as a cause.

Mr Fowler said several crops have been abandoned or are in poor condition.

‘‘Crops that did manage to achieve good plant establishment, however, are now looking quite good,’’ he said.

‘‘Growers at this stage are hopeful of at least average yield potential, though there are some significant hurdles still remaining before harvest.’’

Overall, Mr Fowler estimates the amount of rice planted in the local region has dropped by 20 per cent this year.

Mr Fowler said the price of temporary water continues to be excessively high and is trading for around $85 per megalitre, plus charges for delivery.

‘‘Most growers are hoping they have sufficient water to finish crops though many may need to source small quantities to do so,’’ he said.

Local rice grower John Bradford said despite the rough start, his own crops are expected to produce good results.

‘‘It hasn’t been a normal year – it’s been a challenging season and we can definitely see lower plant numbers,’’ he said.

‘‘The downside is we will have lower volumes for the amount of rice produced, but the upside is we should get a higher price for the rice.’’

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