‘Solid’ offer

By Zoe McMaugh

New confidence is being breathed in to the Riverina rice industry.

On the back of improved water availability, and in line with grower feedback, SunRice has offered what has been described as ‘‘solid’’ fixed price contracts for a limited number of growers.

Deniliquin Ricegrowers Association of Australia branch president Anthony Vagg said combined, it should guarantee the industry can improve on the amount of rice produced in the Riverina in the last two years.

Subsequent years of zero general security allocations has meant less than 100,000 tonne was milled by SunRice in 2019 and 2020 combined.

Yield in the Riverina would historically be closer to one million tonnes a year, in a ‘normal’ year.

In an effort to ‘‘underpin million operations’’ and meet market demand for Australian grown rice, SunRice Group announced fixed price contracts on Friday.

The offer is for the following varieties and prices:

● Reiziq – $475 per metric tonne

● Doongara – $525/mt

● Koshi – $625/mt

‘‘Under the circumstances, SunRice’s offer is for some really solid prices,’’ said Mr Vagg, who farms at Bunnaloo.

‘‘SunRice likely put out a solid price to ensure it can compete with winter cereals and other summer crops.

‘‘As a result, I would expect more people would be looking at growing more rice this year.

‘‘While it is a limited contract, and we don’t know what that limit is, an offer like this does give some confidence to the grower.

‘‘Getting a bit of an allocation (three per cent general security) at the end of last season and a small opening allocation (two per cent general security) this irrigation season, plus the packages offered by Murray Irrigation, also helps.

‘‘Our limitation is always water, but the catchments are wet and people are preparing for a better season.’’

SunRice CEO Rob Gordon agreed that more water is needed to provide additional security to the rice industry over the next 12 months and beyond.

He said SunRice is optimistic that seasonal conditions, water availability and water prices will continue to improve ‘‘so our growers can plant a large Riverina rice crop in 2021’’.

‘‘As a consequence of the record prices we offered growers in August 2019, we secured enough seed in the recent 2020 harvest to enable the planting of an 800,000 paddy tonne crop, should conditions improve significantly before the planting window opens in October,’’ Mr Gordon said.

‘‘Unfortunately the 2019 and 2020 Riverina rice crops were our third and second-smallest on record, respectively — we are hopeful of the improved weather outlook playing out, and a much larger rice crop being planted in the Riverina.

‘‘We have strong demand in Australia and many of the approximately 50 markets we sell branded products to worldwide for Riverina-grown Australian rice, we just need improved water availability and lower water prices to allow our growers to increase production.

‘‘With continuing low allocations and high water prices, the group has determined to make this offer to growers to ensure we encourage plantings and secure sufficient volume of key varieties to underpin our Riverina milling program and assist in meeting premium demand in key markets.

‘‘It will not be until we get closer to the October 2020 planting window that we will be able to more accurately predict the size of the 2021 crop and what the operational requirements will need to be in our Riverina manufacturing facilities to process that crop after it is harvested.’’

The offer will open at 9am tomorrow for those who grew in a critical year (2019 and/or 2020), and then for all other growers at 9am on Friday 31.

Mr Vagg said he intends to make an application, but reminded growers it is a highly competitive process.

‘‘I would like to put in Reiziq and Koshi, because I enjoy growing the short grain varieties and the base prices are really good.

‘‘The amount I put in will all depend on how much water we get, but I would like to start with a few blocks.’’

For more information or to take up the offer, growers can contact SunRice’s Grower Services team on 1800 654 557.