Shelley Scoullar holds a picture of her family - husband Paul and sons Hayden, 14, Lachie, 4, and Jack, 12 - taken in April 2019 during their last rice harvest on her farm.

Shelley Scoullar holds a picture of her family - husband Paul and sons Hayden, 14, Lachie, 4, and Jack, 12 - taken in April 2019 during their last rice harvest on her farm.

Australia could run out of local rice by Christmas says SunRice

SunRice, former Deniliquin farmer, on depleted rice supplies and water policy

Agriculture
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Drought, high water prices and a lack of allocation has made it "almost impossible" for Riverina growers says SunRice

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Australia's locally-grown rice supplies could be exhausted by Christmas, according to SunRice, with high water prices and a lack of allocation making rice growing "almost impossible" for NSW Riverina growers.

A SunRice spokesman said supplies of Australia rice would be exhausted by the end of 2020 or early 2021, depending on demand.

He said 623,000 tonnes of rice was harvested in 2018, but production dropped 91 per cent in 2019 to just 54,000 tonnes. The 2020 crop was 45,000 tonnes.

"The record low Australian crops of the last two years - despite SunRice paying our growers record high rice prices - are a reflection of the ongoing drought, lack of water availability, and very high water pricing which has made rice growing almost impossible for most Riverina growers," he said.

"While in part caused by drought, we also believe those impacts have been exacerbated by state and national water reform - with the burden being disproportionately borne by farmers who grow annual crops like rice in southern NSW."

Panic buying earlier this year "accelerated how quickly [SunRice] processed remaining supplies of Australian rice."

Former Deniliquin rice grower Shelley Scoullar said the lack of water allocation forced many Riverina rice farmers to sow smaller crops, diversify or leave the farm altogether.

"The rice shortage is more about poor policy than the drought, it is about people making decisions from concrete city buildings and not understanding the big picture," she said.

Mrs Scoullar grew up on her parent's rice farm in Deniliquin and purchased her own farm opposite decades later with her husband.

"In a good year between my parents and ourselves we produced enough rice to feed a serve each to roughly nine million people," she said.

"In our last year of growing rice, which was harvested in April 2019, we could only grow less than a million serves because we had such a low water allocation, even though it was pouring down the Murray River and unnaturally flooding forests."

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