We need to stay positive

By Olivia Duffey

Our region needs to remain positive, despite more job losses at the rice mill, according to Mayor Norm Brennan.

Another wave of redundancies announced last year by SunRice have recently come into effect, bringing the company’s total number of job losses to about 230 positions since November 2018.

But Cr Brennan said it is important to look at the positives in hard times, referring to the recent general security water allocation of three per cent, the first in nearly three years.

He said if rice is grown next season, SunRice could be in a position to recruit more staff.

‘‘We need to look at the positives; I can’t remember the last time we got an allocation so late in the year,’’ he said.

‘‘All the things that needed to happen before a water allocation could be announced have happened. 

‘‘This includes having high security water for next year, conveyance water and paybacks that have had to occur because of things that happened in the drought. There were a lot of boxes that needed to be ticked and they have been.’’

Cr Brennan said we are in a ‘‘much more positive position’’ for potential allocation increases for the 2020-21 season.

‘‘And any rain would have an effect on the allocation earlier rather than later in the year, so we are in a better position than we have been in the past two years,’’ he said.

‘‘I think a lot of people are looking to be in a position to grow rice if we get a higher allocation this year. Rice is an opportunistic crop, so if you have the water you grow it, but if you haven’t got water, you reassess.

‘‘So if more rice is grown this season, it might at least stabilise, if not increase employment levels at SunRice. 

‘‘And if we get more rice grown than in the past two years, I expect SunRice will not only want to retain workers, but they might look to recruit more workers.’’

Redundancies have been a result of the small harvest. The 2019 rice crop was the second lowest recorded by the company at 54,000 tonnes.