With annual average output of 1.35 million tons, Australia is not a major rice producer. But it is an important rice exporter: about 85% of the harvest is exported and up to 40 million people across the globe eat Australian rice every day. Australians themselves consume just 10 kg per head a year. The rice industry is vertically integrated, with farmers engaged in production, processing and marketing activities, and generates more than $500 million from value-added exports annually.
Rice is grown on some 145,000 ha of land, mainly in the irrigated areas of south-eastern Australia. Eighty per cent of rice produced in Australia is of medium-grain Japonica varieties, which are well suited to high summer temperatures without the humidity of tropical climates.
Direct seeding is the main method of crop establishment. Production is highly advanced and mechanized, and rice is often planted in rotation with pasture crops. The main planting season in eastern Australia is October, with harvesting in March-April. Thanks to the use of improved varieties and better farm-level management, rice yields have increased from 5-7 tonnes/ha in the early 1970s to more than 10.2 tonnes/ha in 2003, with maximum yields of 14 tonnes. Australian rice growers are considered among the most efficient and productive in the world.
Asian immigration has introduced many new rice dishes to the national cuisine. But a traditional favourite remains the classic Australian rice pudding.
For more information about Australian rice, visit the Ricegrowers' Association of Australia website www.rga.org.au