AUSTRALIAN rice food company, SunRice, is looking forward to another strong production and financial year, with high water availability expected to support another large Riverina crop.
This is following the predicted crop year 2022 (CY22) result of 688,000 paddy tonnes, the largest in five years.
SunRice chairman Laurie Arthur told shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting on Wednesday that crop year 2023 will be the third consecutive year of high rice production.
“The resurgence in Riverina rice production in the 2021 season to 417,000 paddy tonnes represented a near tenfold increase from the prior year’s crop of 45,000 paddy tonnes – our second-lowest crop on record,” Mr Arthur said.
“We are now processing and marketing the recently harvested 2022 crop…[a]nd as we look ahead to planting for the next Riverina crop, conditions are favourable.
“Water availability and water pricing are at the most optimal levels for rice production in many years which should underpin a large crop.”
CY22 pool upgrade
Mr Arthur said SunRice has this week upgraded the lower end of the CY22 pool.
“This upgrade – and the delivery of a record naturally determined pool price in CY21 of $428 per paddy tonne – were achieved in spite of significant challenges, particularly in relation to global supply chains.
“Of particular note are the continued high sea freight and other manufacturing input costs.
“In Financial Year 2022 the company incurred approximately $34 million in unplanned and additional freight costs at Group level, approximately $17.5 million of which was borne by the Rice Pool Business.
“This impacted the final paddy price by approximately $50 per tonne.”
SunRice Group chief executive officer Rob Gordon said this increase in production coupled with prolonged Northern Hemisphere drought means Australian rice is positioned to service premium markets.
“The continued resurgence of Australian rice…has SunRice well placed to benefit this year from an environment in which many key markets are under-supplied, largely due to the impact of severe drought on a number of Northern Hemisphere rice-growing regions,” Mr Gordon said at the AGM.
This global environment meant SunRice was able send a shipment of Australian rice to the company’s SunFoods processing mill in Sacramento, United States.
As a premium global market, the US can maximise the value returned to Australian growers.
Mr Gordon said despite this strong production, the Australian crop is only about half of the total milled and packaged by SunRice with the company sourcing rice from 11 international growing regions.
Currently demand for SunRice products is more than 1.1 million paddy tonnes.
Mr Gordon said SunRice adopts a “good, better, best model” to ensure Australian rice is sold at the largest premium.
“We have continued growing the global demand for our branded rice products which exceeds the volume supply capability from Australia.
“[W]e use our multi-origin rice supply capability to meet demand in approximately 50 global markets at multiple price points, with Australian rice always sold in our most premium markets when it’s available.
“This strategy allows SunRice to supply our customers and consumers with high-quality rice products at different price points.”
New variety returns
As growers prepare of the October planting, Mr Arthur said SunRice again will be making the new variety V071 available.
“Our new bold medium grain variety V071 was released as part of its first large-scale commercial trial for the 2021 crop – and data recently released by the NSW Department of Primary Industries showed it out-yielded our predominant Reiziq variety in all regions.
“We will offer it again this coming season alongside Reiziq and our other specialty varieties, and if this new variety continues to perform, it should help to enhance the profitability of rice production, particularly in the tougher years.”
The majority of Australian rice is grown in the New South Wales Riverina region with a small amount is produced in north Queensland and north Victoria.
It is sown from October to December and harvested in March to May.
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