THE NSW government is aiming to grow the state’s rice exports through a bill it will introduce to Parliament in May.

The bill is to develop a new rice export marketing and trade arrangement for the Northern Rivers rice growing region.

In effect, changes would enable Northern Rivers rice growers to organise their own arrangements for rice exports without having to go through the vesting arrangements which bind growers in southern NSW.

The NSW government developed the initiative after the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) issued a report recommending that the statutory marketing board for rice exports and its sole and exclusive export licence be removed.

The NSW government has rejected the ABARES recommendation because it “wants to support and assist the rice sector to grow sustainably”.

The state government believes the bill is an important step in ensuring regulations do not hinder industry growth. It aims to cut red tape and costs for the emerging Northern Rivers rice sector which would help expand the state’s opportunities in overseas markets.

Meanwhile, existing rice vesting arrangements in Southern NSW will remain in place, with a review slated for 30 June 2029, to ensure export marketing continuity the region.

Minister for agriculture, regional NSW and western NSW Tara Moriarty said helping rice growers expand their export potential would create new business opportunities for the state’s agricultural sector.

“We are both recognising the needs and value of the established growers in the south and opening up opportunities for the emerging sector in the Northern Rivers,” she said.

“I want to acknowledge the valuable contributions made by stakeholder organisations and rice growers over the last year, who outlined what they thought was working, what wasn’t and how the government could renew their export potential.”

The NSW rice industry accounts for about 99% of Australia’s national rice production and had an estimated farm gate value of $219 million in 2022-23.

Australia’s main rice export markets are the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan and Lebanon), Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, PNG, the Solomon Islands and New Zealand.

The bill will include a transitional start date of 1 September 2024 for the Northern Rivers arrangement, which will then occur after the 2024 Northern Rivers rice harvest.