Herbert River growers trialing rice have proclaimed the time is ripe for a new industry in the region, with the first crops harvested and already yielding tasty rewards.
More than 49 hectares of rice was planted in Forest Home, Hawkins Creek, Helen’s Hill and Yuruga in February by seven growers, with the crops raking in an estimated $67,000 for the season.
And now local farmers Stephen and Brenden Accornero, Robert Biasi, Frank and John Russo hope more growers will join them on their mission to bring further rice crops to the region. Australia’s rice sector is tipped to generate more than $619 million in revenue in the year ahead following five years of annualised growth of almost 30 per cent.
Helen’s Hill grower Frank Russo said it was time to embrace change and trial new crops, besides sugar cane.
“This is our first year doing the trials and we’re still working out all the logistics,” he said. “We’ve found that rice is a very viable crop to grow and as it needs a fair amount of rain, this recent wet weather has been great.
“Wetter is better for rice.”
Forest Home grower Stephen Accorneo, who also grows corn, said having rice in the region has the potential to create a viable industry to compliment sugar cane.
“We have long been reliant on sugar cane and with the economy at the moment, farmers are concerned about their cane farming business into the future,” he said. “It appears that rice could be a viable option for fallow cropping to break the monoculture, soil improvement, weed management in fallows and also as another income stream for farmers.”
North Queensland rice is being marketed by Sunrice as Koala Long Grain which is already on the shelves in local Woolworths stores.