Opportunities and solutions – the focus of rice industry conference

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Pannell of 4 people sitting on white lounges, around coffee table on stage, and answering questions for the Australian Rice Growers' Conference

The 2023 Australian Rice Growers’ Conference held recently in Griffith proved to be an exceptional event, showcasing the value and tremendous opportunities within the rice industry.

This whole of industry conference, hosted by Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia (RGA), SunRice Group and AgriFutures Australia, saw over 250 delegates come together to showcase the Australian rice industry and the Griffith region. The event included two tours, to Murrumbidgee Irrigation and Murray Cod Australia, both finishing at Yarran Wines; fantastic speakers; research and development update; a sold-out Women in Rice breakfast; the RGA Annual General Meeting; the very well-attended welcome function and the Rice Industry Awards Gala Dinner.

Peter Herrmann President of RGA was excited at the level of enthusiasm shown by growers, and the wider industry and supply chain participants.

“Our industry is always looking to improve and having so many people come together to hear and share new ideas can only be a big positive for rice. From breeding cold tolerant varieties to considering climate risk; discussing carbon neutrality, through to thinking about economic drivers of the rice business and hearing about exciting developments in, and application of, ag tech – the range of topics we covered was diverse and thought-provoking.”

Speakers reflected on some of the opportunities for agriculture and rice in particular, including NFF’s goal to exceed $100 billion in farm gate output by 2030, consumer demand for premium Australian rice and emerging trade opportunities.

However, delegates also heard about the need to manage potential headwinds including some murky and unpredictable economic conditions around the globe, a potential El Nino event and volatile water prices as well as interest rate and input price pressures.

John Smith, General Manager – Levied and Emerging Industries, AgriFutures Australia noted the RD&E Update and Researcher Alley were opportunities to highlight the research underway to growers.

“We were pleased to showcase the important research being undertaken to industry, but especially to growers themselves. Managing the rice levy is a job we take seriously and investing in high-impact research and fostering on-farm adoption ensures the rice industry remains productive, profitable, and sustainable.”

The keynote address delivered by Tim Jarvis AM, environmental scientist, adventurer, author, and film maker reflected on the need to act on climate change and congratulated the Australian rice industry for being world leaders in rice production and research. He encouraged the industry to continue to show this leadership with a focus on the end goal and what he terms ‘pragmatic optimism’.

The theme of collaboration was strong, with SunRice Group CEO Rob Gordon noting that the strength of the rice industry is built on collaboration and urging the industry to continue to foster that approach through shared goals in research, marketing, and production excellence.

With interest in carbon neutrality and net zero as it applies to agriculture, Professor Richard Eckard of Melbourne University had some sound advice for farmers who are keen to understand their role in delivering carbon neutral agriculture, and those who might be considering carbon trading. Essentially, he recommends careful consideration of the future need for farmers to meet their own net zero obligations and spoke of ‘insetting carbon’ on farms as opposed to selling offsets.

Matt Herring spoke about one of the real success stories of industry and environment working together with the example of Bitterns in Rice. He reminded delegates that a large proportion of the world’s population of Bitterns live in our rice fields! In fact, it’s estimated that there are 500-1000 individual birds across Riverina rice crops with rice growers being custodians of approximately 40% of the global Bittern population.

A panel discussing water policy and the Murray Darling Basin Plan expressed cautious optimism that the political will exists to take a fresh and pragmatic approach to the Murray Darling Basin Plan. It was also noted that data-based advocacy is essential to underpin any discussion around water use.

Mr Herrmann noted the success of this year’s event saying, “Our three partner organisations were delighted with the outcome of the Conference, especially the engagement from growers who took time from their busy operations to support their industry.

“We also simply could not deliver this event without the support of our sponsors, and we offer heartfelt thanks to them.

To keep up to date with the latest research, events and program activities subscribe to AgriFutures Rice Program here To learn more about the AgriFutures Rice Program visit

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