Mill will remain

By Deniliquin Pastoral Times

‘‘If we have the product to mill, we will use our Riverina infrastructure.’’

That is the promise from SunRice chairman Laurie Arthur as angst over the long-term future of the Deniliquin Rice Mill surfaces.

With the phased shut down of the rice mill due to severely reduced water availability still progressing, speculation is running rife that the Deniliquin Rice Mill will never reopen again.

But Mr Arthur stressed that the Riverina, and therefore Deniliquin Rice Mill, still remains an important region for the leading food company.

‘‘It is a tough one because there is a lot of pessimism in the region,’’ Mr Arthur said.

‘‘Because we have had a below average year there is a concern there will be no water next year, but SunRice is preparing itself for a good crop next year.

‘‘From my own point of view I have 100 hectares of rice in this year and I plan for 1000 hectares next year.

‘‘It is not out of odds for me, and I know a lot of my colleagues are planning to do the same. But that ability does depend on a break, and we know that once we would have had irrigation in a season like this.

‘‘The Riverina is an incredibly important area for our business, and while we continue to build markets overseas they are designed to support the markets here.

‘‘Our view of the Riverina is that it is a core part of our business.

‘‘The Murray Valley is seen as inflow dependent, but this will break and SunRice will be there to start milling again.

‘‘In the meantime SunRice is still doing some great things and we’re confident, as a board, that we will get through these tough times.’’

Mr Arthur said SunRice had developed new programs designed to assist growers to continue their commitment to rice, which is affected not only by water availability but the emergence of other crop types in the region.

He said SunRice leaders intend to tour the district over coming weeks to survey growers and determine what more can be done to provide assistance.

‘‘We do have a program to carry paddy over and we will continue to drag limited paddy out as long as we can.’’

He said financial assistance is also available to eligible growers.

‘‘We have put a program together to help people grow rice,’’ he said.

‘‘For example, Grow Rice can offer finance at good rates that allows them (growers) to put a crop in.’’

SunRice has completed the first two phases of a four stage rationalisation of its operations.

Stage one was an amendment of Deniliquin’s mill two shift structure, and stage two was an amendment of the mill one shift structure.

Staff have been advised of changes that will soon be rolled out in stage three, which will affect the Deniliquin and Leeton mills.

While SunRice will not reveal the total number of redundancies offered to date, a company spokesperson said at this stage it is ‘‘comfortably below the original anticipated 100 positions’’ announced last year.