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Rice is the right choice

Ricegrowers’ Association Deniliquin branch president Nick Morona says SunRice's 'incredible' turnaround since the drought is why rice growers should respond by increasing crop production.

TYLA HARRINGTON July 29, 2014 3:50am

Rice Research Australian manager Russell Ford, SunRice chairman Gerry Lawson, rice grower Greg Doherty, Ricegrowers’ Association Deniliquin branch president Nick Morona and SunRice CEO Rob Gordon.


Ricegrowers’ Association Deniliquin branch president Nick Morona believes it’s time rice growers respond to SunRice’s message to increase crop production.

Mr Morona says the global food brand’s ‘‘incredible’’ turnaround since the drought is why growers should follow SunRice CEO Rob Gordon’s message to plant more rice, which was emphasised at the company’s pre-season grower meeting in Deniliquin on Friday.

Speaking to about 80 people at the Deniliquin RSL Club, Mr Gordon said for the majority of farmers in the Southern Riverina, rice produces better returns on investment ‘‘than any other summer crop choice’’.

SunRice recently announced an expected 2013-14 harvest of 825,000 tonnes. It also increased its 2014 paddy price for the second time this year.

The company has said it now has the capacity to market 950,000 tonnes of rice into premium markets, compared with 800,000 tonnes previously.

Mr Morona said it was an incredible achievement to be able to increase its market capacity.

‘‘SunRice has turned it around — now it’s up to us growers to throw our support behind them,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s a great food company that has brought the market up significantly since the drought.

‘‘I think one of the main messages (of the meeting) was to make decisions based on whole farm systems over three to five years.

‘‘Speakers also touched on the Geographic Information System technology, which helps cropping programs run very smoothly.

‘‘It’s a big advantage and as I understand it you’re able to map where your rice is planted, and the industry also knows where the variety mix is.

‘‘They also spoke about the new YRF209 variety, which is shaping up to be really good, as well as a new cold tolerant Reiziq variety.

‘‘There’s also the Opus/Koshi rice (a sushi type rice) ... it’s a year or two away but it’s expected to be very strong in the market and more cold tolerant.’’

Mr Gordon, speaking to the Pastoral Times on Friday, said all indications show the trend for rice into the future was ‘‘positive’’ and there was lots of enthusiasm for the future of the industry.

Recognising a small shift in farmers choosing to plant cotton, he said it makes sense for most people to choose or stick with rice.

‘‘We’ve seen some people in the region choose cotton but growers shouldn’t just be taken by the top-line revenue,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s important to consider the total cost. When looking at that cash flow, the research shows it makes sense for most of them to stay with rice.

‘‘And when you look at the paddy price right now the choice is even more stark (to choose rice).’’

Mr Gordon also referred to an independent economic assessment of cropping choices in the Riverina, which has revealed that returns for the rice farming systems are more attractive and sustainable than most other crops.

Agribusiness and Environmental Solutions principal consultant based in Griffith, Michael Ryan completed the analysis.

Mr Ryan said results from the assessment — completed throughout six weeks in June and July — showed in most cases returns for the rice farming system were more sustainable than crops including cotton and irrigated winter crops.

He attended and presented his findings at Friday’s meeting.

Mr Ryan said the assessment, which was commissioned by SunRice, revealed that in most cases people should choose rice before cotton.

He also said people considering the choice must take into account the total cost of doing so.

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