SunRice says it is temporarily ceasing processing and packing some of its domestic lines as stocks of Australian-grown rice dwindle dangerously low in the lead up to a much needed harvest boost.
Despite a difficult summer of unseasonably cool growing conditions, the national marketer and processor is expecting a big improvement in stocks will start building in the next two months.
It has forecast a 2020 crop of more than 450,000 tonnes will be available to harvest in southern NSW from March.
The Riverina and Murray Valley crop will be about 10 times the size of last summer's drought depleted yield - the second smallest grown in SunRice's 70-year history.
Even so, the real impact of January's worrying cooler evening temperatures at a critical time in the crop's development will not be known until well into the March-April harvest.
"SunRice has been working closely with growers to manage impacts," a company spokesman said.
"A number of different varieties were planted, with a wide range of sowing dates, so crops are at different stages of development.
"Thankfully daytime temperatures have been high enough to heat up the water to ensure rice crops with high water levels had good protection from the cold nights.
"This means, at the industry-wide level, the risk of serious damage is mitigated."
The company, which has local and overseas markets capable of absorbing more than 1 million tonnes a year, has been working overtime sourcing sufficient supplies in Vietnam, the US, South America and elsewhere to meet demand for the past two seasons.
Last year, at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic pantry stocking rush, demand trends had SunRice officials bracing for domestic retail supplies to be exhausted before Christmas.
The 2020 crop had been so small the company had minimal inventory on hand and had to shut down the majority of its milling operation.
Fortunately, consumer pressures eased enough later in the year for supplies to stretch into 2021.
However, a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange has advised stock shortages still mean some lines would not be packed for a short period until the new crop was harvested, dried and ready to be processed.
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The return to more normal retail buying trends meant the group had managed to maintain enough supplies into the new year and reduce the duration of its ceased production runs.
"With the improvement in the Riverina crop size rof 2021 and continuing execution of our growth strategy initiatives, and anticipated easing of COVID-19 disruptions, SunRice remains well positioned for the 2021-22 year," the company said.
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The story Aussie rice stocks exhausted but NSW poised to harvest 450,000t crop first appeared on Farm Online.