When we are unable to source our rice from one of our usual growers due to crop failure etc, our first option will be to source Australian rice via Sunrice. Rice is one of the last of the regulated agricultural industries in Australia and Sunrice is the parent company to whom most growers, both conventional and organic, deliver their crops for processing.
In this case we are unable to tell you exactly who grew your rice as Sunrice pools all the organic grain received.
You will see how the farmers work in the video above, which is a very general overview. In the case of organically grown rice, the process is the same except that no fertilisers of pesticides and herbicides are used as all certified organic rice has strict standards around ‘inputs’.
Most Australian rice is grown in the Riverina. And the area planted can vary greatly each season due to water allocations in the Murray and Murrumbidgee irrigation systems.
Rice has been grown here since the 1920s on soils within the Murray-Darling Basin that are too heavy for the cultivation of fruit and too infertile for wheat.
Before rice can be planted, the soil is levelled so that once the field is flooded water won’t be too-deep or too shallow. This helps seedlings to establish more easily, which reduces the effort involved in crop management while increasing both grain quality and yields.
In irrigated areas, seed is normally pre-germinated prior to planting into wet soil. Rainfed rice is seeded like other grain crops, ploughing it into dry soil.
Growing rice is actually a very intensive process. It’s extremely sensitive to water shortages, and is susceptible to rodents, insects, viruses, diseases, and weeds. Good water management practices, hand weeding, and understanding the interactions between pests, host plants and the environment are all management techniques a rice farmer has to be knowledgeable about.
As the plant matures it develops flowers otherwise known as panicles. These are generally self-pollinating and occurs by wind alone – no insects are involved. Once pollinated, the panicles grow heavy with the maturing rice seeds.
Depending on the variety, a rice crop usually reaches maturity within 105–150 days.
Prior to harvest fields are drained of water and the ground must dry out so that farmers can bring in the combine harvester.
While rice is often hand-harvested across Asia, in Australia the crop is mechanically harvested, which has a low labour cost but higher capital investment on the part of the farmer.
A rice seed consists of a husk (the inedible outer part) with the edible rice grain inside.
Underneath the husk, the rice grain is covered with a layer of bran. This is what we know as ‘brown’ rice. Once the bran is also removed, you have ‘white’ rice. This process is done at Sunrice’s facility before being shipped to Kialla where we will mill it into white and brown rice flour.