Irrigated agriculture profile: rice

Irrigated agriculture profile: rice

Industry snapshot

  • Almost all of Australia’s rice is grown in the southern Murray–Darling Basin.
  • Most rice is grown by irrigators with lower reliability general security licences, so during periods of low water availability rice growers usually receive lower seasonal allocations.
  • Rice growers have been adapting to a range of factors including climate, variable prices, as well as water reforms such as the Basin Plan.
  • The proportion of rice farmers engaged in both buying and selling temporary water has generally increased.

ABARES rice report

ABARES full report on irrigated agriculture in the basin

Irrigated agriculture is a major industry in the Murray–Darling Basin. To help build a picture of how irrigated farms are changing across time we are working to identify the social and economic effects of the Basin Plan and water recovery.

The MDBA is using a range of sources to build a picture of the changes happening in the rice industry, including working with industry groups, the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) and the University of Canberra.

The next stage of this work is to analyse this information to assess what the causes of change are and the likely contribution of the Basin Plan.

Key facts 2016

Information commissioned by the MDBA to date includes an ABARES report on rice farming in the Murray–Darling Basin, and a workshop held with rice growers. Additional information collection and analysis will be completed in 2016 to understand the causes of trends and changes in the rice industry in the basin.

ABARES has conducted surveys of irrigation farms in selected industries and regions in the basin since 2006–07. Their latest report, Rice growing in the Murray–Darling Basin, presents a range of data collected from rice growers in the basin since 2006. The report describes the characteristics of rice production, farm financial performance, water use and efficiency, water trading and irrigation technologies and investment.

In March 2016 a workshop was held with a number of rice farmers in Finley, New South Wales to test the findings of the ABARES report. Key messages from the workshop included:

  • uncertainty around the future availability of water is affecting the confidence of some growers
  • understanding the water market is more important than ever — there needs to be better information about water markets to provide the potential for more informed decision making around trade
  • the temporary water price in the current water year (2015–16) has made the margins too small for many irrigators to buy water, although at certain times and in particular areas there were opportunities to purchase
  • irrigators increasingly own a mix of products to spread risk across their portfolio and are looking more closely at carryover management
  • more entrepreneurial behavior is emerging, such as using collective leases and alternative water market products.

By using a combination of information sources the MDBA is gaining a much deeper knowledge of the rice industry in the basin from both an industry and individual perspective. This mix of knowledge will help us to better understand how water reforms are affecting the industry. We will continue to work closely with industry on monitoring and evaluating the social and economic effects of the Basin Plan, including in the next stage of analysis to identify the causes of change and the contribution of the Basin Plan.