In spite of the ongoing drought and despite low water allocations, rice growers continue to seek means to maintain their viability and presence in global markets.
A pilot program in southern NSW and supported by Murray Local Land Services aims to help local rice growers demonstrate their sustainability credentials on the world stage.
With Australian growers recognised as among the most efficient in the world at producing high-quality rice, the National Interpretation Guidelines of the Sustainable Rice Platform will help them ensure global consumers and the broader community are aware of the rice industry's sustainability efforts.
Adapted from the current United Nations Environment and International Rice Research Institute's Sustainable Rice Platform, the pilot involved seven growers last season, and will extend to 20 rice businesses this year.
The growers audited as part of the pilot last year found they often over delivered on environmental sustainability and water efficiency - good news as the local industry aims for International Sustainable Accreditation from this process.
During August, two workshops in Leeton and Deniliquin will kick off the second stage of the pilot, which is being overseen by a team comprising staff from SunRice, the Ricegrowers' Association of Australia and Local Land Services.
The platform is not only based around aspects of legislative compliance in land, water and labour management, but also effective use of water, fertiliser, chemicals, irrigation layouts and technology use.
The two-fold aims for accreditation are to record and recognise Australia's world leading production system compared with international standards, and to identify areas of improvement in training, education, extension and research.
Both are invaluable in enhancing the industry's reputation as a world leader, giving Australian growers access to high-value international markets.
As the project progresses, the intention is to develop a whole-farm sustainability platform using continued input and feedback from growers and stakeholders.
The value of this project cannot be understated as markets are demanding this information and our farmers need support and the development of simple recording systems so they can sell their sustainability story.
- This project is supported by Murray Local Land Services, through funding from the Australian Government's National Landcare Program.