Rice was one of the founding industries for many irrigation towns in southern New South Wales and Northern Victoria.
Since its establishment, the industry has employed thousands of people across regional Australia; predominately in the Riverina region of NSW. It now contributes significantly to the economic health of those regions.
It’s estimated that every $1 of rice production equates to $4 in flow on economic activity.
Most of the rice grown in Australia is concentrated in the Murrumbidgee and Murray valleys of southern New South Wales. Small areas of rice are also grown in North Victoria and Northern Queensland.
It is concentrated in the Murrumbidgee and Murray valleys due to large areas of flat land, suitable clay-based soils, the availability of water and the development of storage and milling infrastructure in or near the regional towns.
A number of regional towns and cities are supported by the rice industry, including:
Leeton is home to the headquarters of the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia (RGA), along with processing and marketing company SunRice. It was the first town to be established as part of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area and the shire has a population of about 11,500 people.
Griffith is a major rice growing area, with hundreds of farming families involved in the industry. It has a population of around 25,000 and relies heavily on irrigation/dryland cropping and horticulture for its economic stability.
Deniliquin is a major agricultural centre in south-west NSW and is capable of producing significant tonnages of rice. It is home to the largest rice mill in the southern hemisphere, and has a population of just over 8,000.
Coleambally is the newest town in NSW and the region was designed for irrigated agriculture in the 1950’s. Farmers secured land through a ballot system and the region now supports some 1,200 people.
Other towns in NSW/VIC
The towns of Hay, Finley, Barham, Wakool and Moulamein are also heavily dependent on the rice industry.
The hub of the Queensland rice industry is within the Burdekin district, with crops grown in Ingham, Tully and Gordonvale.