Plan im­pacts on rice, mill’s job losses

Southern Riverina news - - NEWS -

Those who voted for the Murray-Dar­ling Basin Plan and its wa­ter re­forms need to take own­er­ship of their de­ci­sion and the sub­se­quent neg­a­tive im­pact it is hav­ing in basin com­mu­ni­ties, ac­cord­ing to Jeremy Mor­ton.

The Rice­grow­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Aus­tralia pres­i­dent made the re­mark in re­sponse to Thurs­day’s an­nounce­ment of nearly 100 job losses at the De­niliquin rice mill.

SunRice has ex­plained this is a con­se­quence of the small rice crop in 2018/2019 due to low wa­ter avail­abil­ity and high wa­ter prices. Mr Mor­ton said RGA does not be­lieve it was not the in­ten­tion of the Basin gov­ern­ments’ wa­ter re­form agenda to de­stroy in­dus­tries and the re­lated com­mu­ni­ties, but it has un­doubt­edly played a role in this de­ci­sion by SunRice.

‘‘While the drought is a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor, there is no doubt the Basin Plan is re­spon­si­ble for some of these peo­ple los­ing their job,’’ Mr Mor­ton said.

‘‘All the ev­i­dence shows us that the re­duc­tion in the pool of pro­duc­tive wa­ter means less peo­ple with a job.

‘‘All those who voted for this re­form in 2012 need to own this out­come.’’

Mr Mor­ton said what is hap­pen­ing within the SunRice foot­print should serve as a warn­ing for the Wa­ter Min­is­ters (MinCo) meet­ing this month to dis­cuss the pro­posal to re­move a fur­ther 450 gi­gal­itres of wa­ter from the pro­duc­tive pool through the Basin Plan.

Be­fore the SunRice an­nounce­ment last week, RGA had made a sub­mis­sion to the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter and Re­sources re­it­er­at­ing its long stand­ing mes­sage that it does not sup­port the re­cov­ery of an ad­di­tional 450 gi­gal­itres of wa­ter from pro­duc­tive use.

It says all wa­ter re­cov­ered from pro­duc­tive use re­sults in neg­a­tive so­cial and eco­nomic im­pacts for basin com­mu­ni­ties, ir­ri­ga­tors and in­dus­tries, in par­tic­u­lar due to the flow on ef­fects of in­creased wa­ter prices.

‘‘A de­ci­sion at MinCo to fur­ther re­duce the amount of wa­ter avail­able for pro­duc­ing food and fi­bre means more peo­ple with­out a job, fewer jobs across our en­tire com­mu­nity and the na­tion,’’ Mr Mor­ton said.

‘‘That is the power of wa­ter, be­cause with­out wa­ter we have noth­ing.

‘‘In our close Rive­rina com­mu­ni­ties this sit­u­a­tion is very dis­tress­ing, these are our fam­ily and friends who find them­selves with­out a job.

‘‘The im­pacts flow through from the farms to the ser­vice and pro­cess­ing sec­tors.’’

The SunRice an­nounce­ment of sig­nif­i­cant cuts to pro­duc­tion in De­niliquin is ex­pected to im­pact on a large por­tion of the 152 peo­ple are cur­rently em­ployed at the Deni mills.

There will be a four phase re­duc­tion in mill op­er­a­tions, start­ing on Jan­uary 2.

From April, Deni’s ‘Mill 1’, which fo­cuses on bulk rice, will cease pro­duc­tion and go into main­te­nance and the ‘Mill 2’ struc­ture will be cut back to part-time op­er­a­tion. Mill 2 is for short grain pro­cess­ing for the Ja­panese cui­sine mar­kets.

The ‘Mill 2’ op­er­a­tion will be fur­ther cut to a mere eight hours a day for only five days a week from the mid­dle of next year.

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