This is Australian rice.
• Australia grows rice, naturally
• Where is our rice grown?
• How much rice do we produce?
• What rice varieties do we grow?
• Who grows rice?
• Benefits of rotation farming
• Rice cultivation
• Safety first
• Milling and processing
• Where is our rice distributed?
• Our products
Australia grows rice, naturallyRiverina SunRice Country is the only rice-growing region to have none of the world’s serious rice pests or diseases. This is achieved by the combination of strict government quarantine control of the rice-based materials entering Australia and the Riverina rice-growing region, geographical isolation, extremes of summer and winter temperatures and the rotation systems used by our farmers.
Here’s how our rice industry produces high-quality, safe and sustainable rice.
1. Australian rice is healthy and safe. Our rice farmers are the lowest users of agricultural chemicals in the world. When harvested, Australian rice is already virtually chemical free and is processed without using any chemicals at all. The final product is clean and healthy when it reaches consumers.
2. Australian rice is produced efficiently and sustainably. Our growers produce the highest yields of medium-grain in the world, while using less water than any other country and 50% less than the global average. In addition, rice growers recycle all of their water and use the moisture left in the soil after harvest to plant another grain crop.
3. Australian rice is harvested in March to May. Fresh, new-season rice, which is particularly important for some markets, is available from March. Australia is one of the world’s only Japonica producers to have new-season rice at this time.
4. The Australian rice industry is committed to research and development. SunRice uses the most advanced technology to ensure rice is grown, harvested and milled to the highest standard. The Australian rice breeding program also seeks to constantly improve quality and yield characteristics of rice varieties.
Where is our rice grown?Our rice is produced in the Riverina region, in south western New South Wales, and in the Murray regions of New South Wales and Victoria. You’ll find rice being produced in the Murrumbidgee and Coleambally Irrigation Areas and the Murray Valley. Leeton is home to the industry’s headquarters.
The reason rice is grown here is because the hot summer climate and heavy soils are ideal for rice production, along with its high-quality irrigation water. There is no large-scale industrial development between the mountain catchments and the irrigated plain. Water flows from melting snow and rainfall in the Snowy Mountains through an extensive irrigation system.
How much rice do we produce?
Australia can grow around 130,000 hectares of rice every year. That makes us one of the most efficient rice producers in the world, with annual average yields which can exceed more than 11 tonnes per hectare.
What rice varieties do we grow?
Eighty per cent of rice produced in Australia is of medium grain Japonica varieties. The remainder are long grain Indica varieties, including fragrant rice. As the rice industry invests heavily in research and development, new-improved varieties are constantly being developed through an extensive rice breeding program, jointly funded by rice growers, SunRice and the NSW and Commonwealth governments.
Who grows rice?
Around 1500 farm businesses operate rice farms in New South Wales and Victoria. The average size of each rice farm is around 400 hectares. Each grower is able to apply to be a shareholder of SunRice, which processes and markets rice food products in Australia, and overseas.
Benefits of rotation farming
Our rice growers use a rotation system across the whole farm, which is designed for efficiency, sustainability and safety. Rice is produced on around one-third of the property for one to two years, followed by another cereal crop such as wheat or barley. On some farms, a pasture phase follows where sheep or cattle graze the crop stubble (the remnants of the cereal crop after harvest) and a legume-based pasture that regenerates from seeds dormant in the soil. The rotation system helps enrich the soil and prevent any build-up of pests and diseases.
One rice crop is grown each year – cultivation begins in early September. Laser levelling can be used to prepare the ground, allowing even water distribution to maximise efficiency. Banks of soil are formed to divide paddy fields into bays.
Rice seeds are either dropped into water-filled bays by aircraft (aerial seeding) or ground-operated broadcasters; or planted directly into dry soil by tractor drawn machinery (drill or sod seeding), and then watered. Harvesting, from February to May, is fully mechanised using sophisticated ‘headers’.
The region’s isolation and strict quarantine laws, coupled with its seasonal extremes of climate and rotation farming practices, have kept it free of rice pests and diseases, so Australian rice growers remain the world’s lowest users of agricultural chemicals.
As well, a number of our farmers are producing organically grown rice, without the use of any agricultural chemicals or artificial fertilisers. The region’s dry climate and advanced storage technology allows rice to be stored without the use of post-harvest chemicals.
Milling and processing
SunRice oversees the production, storage, milling and marketing of rice and rice-based products. It operates rice receival depots to store and dry paddy and a number of modern, computerised rice milling plants throughout the rice-growing region, as well as smaller speciality rice food plants.
During the milling process, the hard outer husk is removed to produce brown rice. Then the bran layer is removed and the grains of rice are polished to create white rice. Every single grain of rice is digitally scanned for imperfections and less than perfect grains are rejected.
However, nothing is wasted – we add value to the paddy at every step. For instance, grains of rice that are broken during milling are ground into rice flour and sent to our customers in Australia and around the world to be made into products such as rice crackers and breakfast cereals. Rice hulls, too, are collected and used by our subsidiary company, CopRice, to manufacture pet litter, animal bedding, garden fertilisers and pelletised feed for stock and domestic animals.
Where is our rice distributed?
Australian rice is processed and packed in many configurations – from 400g consumer packs to 1.8 tonne bulkers – for Australian and international markets. Up to 80% of Australian rice is exported.
SunRice is constantly innovating and developing value-added rice-based products for its customers throughout the world, from rice cakes snacks to convenience meals and microwave rice solutions.
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