23 March 2021
Rice has been grown globally for millennia and in Australia from the 1850s.
In WA’s Ord Valley during the 70s and start of the 80s, where the conditions are perfect for growing the medium grain Japonica variety of rice (O. sativa).
There is plenty of water to irrigate the crop, lots of sun, good temperatures, plus Australia’s reputation for clean and healthy farms make a grain crop easy to export at a premium.
So why isn’t it being grown?
The main issue with growing rice in the WA is cost.
Geographically isolated, getting equipment, parts, services and other essentials into the state’s north is currently too expensive.
Laurie Arthur, chair of major Australian rice brand SunRice and someone who once trialled growing rice in the Kimberly, summarises it: “If I had a problem with a rice harvester, the replacement parts were probably 4500 kilometres away”.
New pests and diseases also inhabit the area and would need to be thoroughly researched to stop them afflicting rice crops, adding another cost hurdle.
If these barriers are overcome, rice and other irrigated crops would be viable in the north of the state, but this is a long process so don’t expect it too soon.
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