Coraki farmer Gary Woolley is about to harvest his second commercial crop of rice.
Coraki farmer Gary Woolley is about to harvest his second commercial crop of rice. CATHY ADAMS

Rice growers hoping for top season

IT’S CALLED upland, dryland or mountain rice, and it’s about to go through its sec-ond harvest on the Northern Rivers.

Fledgling rice grower Gary Woolley, of East Coraki, is preparing to harvest his 28 hectares and is hoping for a better result than last year.

“We had a bad season last year,” he said.

“It was too wet and we couldn’t get the rice dry enough due to the driers at Casino taken up with soya beans.”

The rice, therefore, satunharvested for a couple of months.

While 40 growers tried their hand at growing dryland rice, only seven to eight will be harvesting their second crop this year due to the problems they encountered last year.

“For the rice to travel to the Riverina area the grain needs to be dried down by 21 per cent,” Mr Woolley said.

“They will take 18 per cent, but any lower and it can get stackburn, which means the rice heats up and cooks as it travels.”

If last year’s rice harvest had been uneventful, Mr Woolley estimated that a couple of thousand tonnes of grain would have made it to the Sunrice processing facilities in Leeton.

“As things went we only managed to send down 300 tonnes,” he said.

But with a new season and a new harvest, Mr Woolley is hopeful.

“We’ll just see how it goes,” he said. “Sunrice has been pleased with the quality of the rice grown.”

The beauty of growing dryland rice over irrigated rice, Mr Woolley said, was that the former grew like barley or wheat.

“With irrigated rice, you need to add water as it grows,” he said.

“With dryland rice it grows on the natural rainfall.”

A major problem facing Northern Rivers rice growers is the cost of transporting their harvest to Leeton, north-west of Wagga Wagga.

“It cost $100 per tonne to get the rice down south,” Mr Woolley said.

“Prices are good at the moment, but they will come back a bit, so we need to have our own mill here.”

The district agronomist with Industry and Investment NSW at Casino, Bede Clarke, is positive about the future of dryland rice on the Northern Rivers.

“There’s no doubt the Northern Rivers is a good place to grow dryland rice,” he said.

“The industry will still be here in 10 years’ time.”



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