Rice is a summer cereal crop, and over 1500 farm enterprises in southern Australia plant rice in rotation with other summer and winter crops. Production averages 600,000–800,000 tonnes per year, although in years with abundant water, output can exceed 1.2 million tonnes. Rice accounts for about 2% of the total grain production in Australia.
Australia's principal growing area is the central part of the continent, between the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer, where temperatures are relatively constant throughout the year. Other areas suitable for rice cultivation include northern Queensland and far south-western Victoria. The main product is generally long-grain white rice. However, brown rice is also grown for human consumption and trade purposes.
In 2017, Australia was the seventh largest exporter and the third largest importer of rice. Exports were valued at $A115.7 million, while imports were valued at $A228.4 million. The major exporting countries were China (28%), Australia (12%) and Thailand (11%). The main importing country was Indonesia (40%).
Rice has been cultivated in Australia since the early 19th century, when it was introduced from Asia via Britain and Germany. At that time, it was used as animal feed because it provided energy and nutrients important to livestock production.
Today, rice is Australia's third largest cereal grain export and ninth largest agricultural export, and the sector earns over $800 million in income each year, with exports accounting for about $500 million of that. Rice was first exported from Australia in 1842.'
Australia became one of the world's leading exporters of rice in the 1970s, when it took advantage of lower prices to expand production. By 2001, it was the second largest exporter, after Thailand. In that time, Australia has increased its annual output more than twice, to an all-time high of about 3 million tonnes in 2001. It is now the fourth largest exporter in the world.
When Australians eat rice, they usually consume it by itself as a side dish or used in making congee, japchae, or chow mein. However, rice also plays an important role in many aspects of Australian life including medicine, beer making, and animal feed. In medicine, rice is used to make broths and infusions that are given to patients to drink or eat. Beer makers use rice as well as other ingredients such as wheat, maize, and barley to produce ale and lager. Animals fed rice grow faster and have less disease than those fed other foods. This is because rice has some properties that help animals' bodies fight off bacteria and viruses.
Every year, Australia relies on rice imports to meet costs and customer demands for rice varietals that are not farmed in Australia. Between 2009-10 and 2018-19, annual rice imports averaged 173,000 tonnes (ABS 2020b). The main suppliers of rice to Australia are India, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Rice is one of the most important agricultural products imported by Australia. As well as being used to make food, it is also manufactured into paper and plastic. In 2017-18, Australian consumers bought approximately 3 million tonnes of rice (mostly white rice) at an average price of about $180 per tonne (OECD.Stat 2019).
Australia's largest importer of rice is actually its neighbour New Zealand. From 2003 to 2018, Australia's main supplier of rice was India, followed by Thailand and then Vietnam. However, between 2009 and 2018, Indian rice exports to Australia dropped by almost half due to higher production and export prices in other countries such as Thailand and Vietnam.
In response, Australia has started to look elsewhere for rice imports. Between 2003 and 2008, Thailand was again the main supplier of rice to Australia, but since then India has replaced it. Despite this change, Australia remains dependent on overseas producers because the country does not have enough domestic rice production capacity to meet demand.
Australia mostly farms medium-grain rice types that thrive in high summer temperatures without the humidity of tropical climes where long-grain rice is typically cultivated. Australian farmers began importing rice in 1876 and today account for about one-third of the world's supply.
Rice has been grown in Australia since its introduction from Asia but it was not until the mid-19th century that it became a major crop. Before that time, it was usually grown as a pasture grass for grazing livestock or used as fuel.
The first recorded attempt to grow rice in Australia was by a Scottish immigrant who settled in Victoria. In his garden at Sunnyside he grew several varieties of Asian rice that he sold in the city market. This is believed to be the first commercial production of rice in Australia. By 1870, Melbourne had become the world's largest exporter of rice.
Rice growing spread to other states but it was not until World War II that it became widespread. At that time, Australian farmers needed something to grow besides wheat and barley because much of the country was isolated by water (the main export). Rice provided an alternative source of income when prices were high. Since then, it has become one of Australia's most important crops.
Rice is farmed in over a hundred nations, with a total harvested area of over 158 million hectares, generating more than 700 million tons each year (470 million tons of milled rice). Asia produces almost 640 million tons of rice, accounting for 90 percent of world output. India and China alone account for nearly 50 percent of Asian production.
The United States is the second largest producer of rice after India. In 2014, the US produced about 21 million tons of rice, of which about 9 million tons were exported. Canada is the third largest exporter of rice. Brazil and Argentina also produce significant amounts of rice but they export most of their crops.
Rice is one of the most important food crops in the world. It provides more than 20 percent of the calories consumed by humans. Also known as "king of grains", it is the only food crop that does not require any processing before consumption. Rice is used to make noodles, cakes, and other foods that do not need to be cooked first.
People have been growing rice for approximately 10,000 years. At first, it was simply collected after every rainy season. But as agriculture developed, farmers began to grow different types of rice and use them for different purposes. Long-grain rice is used for making white or par-cooked rice while short-grain rice is good for making black-colored rice.