Northern rice push
Rice review recommends industry expansion
The expansion of the rice industry into other parts of the state is to be investigated following an industry review.
It was one of the recommendations to come out of a review into vesting powers of the NSW Rice Marketing Board.
The review supported the recommendation to extend vesting arrangements, which the NSW Government announced would be extended to 2022.
The vesting powers allow the Rice Marketing Board to hold an exclusive export agreement with SunRice.
The review also recommended the Rice Marketing Board investigates and implements ways to develop the rice industry outside the Murray and Riverina, ‘‘to avoid costs from restricting the growth of the industry in northern NSW’’.
‘‘A small number of growers and firms made submissions to this review arguing that current vesting arrangements restrict the development of the rice industry in northern NSW,’’ the review report reads.
‘‘There are two parts to this claim: (1) that transportation costs are large and prohibitive, which prevents northern growers from selling their rice to SunRice to export and (2) that being constrained to sell into the small domestic market restricts their ability to increase scale and compete with SunRice.’’
Ricegrowers Association of Australia president Jeremy Morton said while northern NSW growers will never be able to meet the scale of rice growing in the Riverina and Murray, there is a chance to explore expansion to supplement NSW rice production.
‘‘There appears to be an opportunity there, and while it will never be the same as the Riverina in terms of production we do have to explore all the opportunities,’’ Mr Morton said.
‘‘The north does get some good commercial yields, and a lot is grown on rainfall and tends to be a base crop for rotation.
‘‘If we can have a core group of growers there it can be a good thing for SunRice, particularly with the Riverina and Murray more susceptible to water and climatic conditions like drought.’’
Mr Morton said he intends to visit the northern part of the state in the new year to speak with growers.
He highlighted, however, that reducing transport costs to SunRice facilities may not be possible.
‘‘The RGA is certainly going to get there and try and understand what it is they (northern NSW growers) really need,’’ he said.
‘‘The domestic market is an attractive market, but like any good industry there needs to be a certain scale of production to justify investment.’’
The vesting review was conducted by NSW DPI to examine whether the current vesting arrangement continues to provide NSW producers with a price premium over what they could otherwise earn from an open export market.
It also recommended the vesting policy be reviewed again in 2020, and that there be an independent review of the Rice Marketing Board ‘‘to ensure that any risk of conflict of interest is appropriately addressed’’.