WATER price woes didn’t stop second generation rice grower John Gitsham from planting a crop, which he believes provides his best value option, despite the temporary market pricing water at more than $300 a megalitre.
“I believe I can grow more food per megalitre of water by growing rice, and I am still getting good yields,” Mr Gitsham said.
He said the current price for rice, at $415 for Reiziq medium grain, was reasonable, but “there is certainly room for improvement”.
Mr Gitsham has planted 280ha rice this season, predominately of the Reiziq variety, but also some Sherpa. He would have planted an increased area if he had more water.
“I also grew some winter cereal last season which could have been watered, but I sacrificed yield to save water for my rice,” he said.
With only 32 percent allocation in the Murrumbidgee Valley, plus savings the local irrigation company distributes to its members, Mr Gitsham said “it isn’t very much in dry year.”
“If the allocation had been higher, I would have watered my cereal crop which had the potential to yield three times what I actually harvested,” he said.
Over the past 17 years, Mr Gitsham said he has only missed growing rice for one year because he did not have enough water allocation during a year of drought.
“I have been growing rice for the past 17 years for the benefit of my family,” Mr Gitsham said. “I have a son, and I will give him every opportunity to carry on.”
Mr Gitsham, who operates the 1000 hectare irrigation operation based at “Mulloka”, Coleambally, in partnership with his wife Sandy and son Michael, indicated he has a commitment to the rice industry beyond the family connection.
“I regard myself as a 100 percent rice grower, and importantly, the rice industry is still 100 percent owned by Australian interests,” Mr Gitsham said.
He said it is crucial the industry remains in Australian hands.
“A good percentage of our crop goes off-shore bringing new money into the country,” Mr Gitsham said. “The local rice mills also employ a significant number of people.”
Otherwise he said the rice industry has been very good to him and his family.
“But the industry has also been good to the Coleambally district,” he said. “There is only one industry in Coleambally, and that is agriculture.”
Supporting Mr Gitsham and other rice growers is the commitment by the rice industry to further research and development focused on maintaining industry viability, including varieties such as YRM70 which recently featured at a field day near Yenda.