Believe it or not, Australia, the land of barbeques and Vegemite, is an important grower of rice for the Asian market, with local growers ranking among the best in the world.
Australian farmers provide sought-after product to the rice-loving continent, with 80 per cent of their harvests exported overseas.
Warren Lang has been farming rice in southern New South Wales for many years and is the Berriquin branch president of the Ricegrowers’ Association. He says due to our natural environment, Australia produces some of the best rice on the planet.
“We use the least amount of chemicals in the world because our soil and our environment are very conducive to keeping weeds out,” Mr Lang says.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to different countries and look at different rice farming [conditions] and we are the benchmark of the world.”
An ideal climate
Australian rice farmers yield more rice per hectare than any other country in the world.
Our climate is ideal for growing rice, particularly the highly sought after medium grain variety that only grows in temperate climates.
Mr Lang says Australia has plenty of clear, sunny days which are ideal for rice farming. On the other hand, Asia typically sees many more days of cloudy weather.
This means that Asia is not able to produce anywhere near as much rice as Australia. When you yield some of the highest quality rice in the world, it would be a crime not to share.
We are also privileged to have a clean supply of fresh water available as well as access to flat land and clay-based soils.
An intriguing history
Rice farming is mostly based in southern New South Wales, with some farms also in Victoria and north Queensland.
The industry started in NSW’s Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area in the mid 1920s. During World War II, rice was in hot demand and the Commonwealth Government asked the NSW rice industry to produce 100,000 tonnes of rice.
This request was impossible. To try and meet the need, rice began to be farmed in the Murray Valley.
The Australian rice industry has experienced enormous growth since then and today, boasts around 1,500 rice farms in the Murrumbidgee Valley of NSW and the Murray Valley of NSW and Victoria.
“To go to supermarkets and find that we hold some pretty premium shelf space with the SunRice logo on it, it’s always a sense of pride that we actually are producers of good quality food,” Mr Lang says.
“That’s something I know a lot of rice growers are very proud of.”
What is involved?
Even once the rice is harvested and ready to be shared with other countries, the exportation process is not simple.
“Exporters must meet individual importing country requirements which may include the provision of a phytosanitary certificate,” a spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources said.
“Phytosanitary certificates assure that Australian rice has been inspected according to appropriate procedures and is considered to be free from quarantine pests of concern to the importing country and conforms with their phytosanitary regulations. Following successful inspection, the department issues this phytosanitary certification for export.”
If you ever head over to Asia and see a packet of SunRice in the grocery store, you can be rest assured it has earned its place on that shelf.