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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 46

(Question No. 1535)

Senator Jones asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice, on 19 November 1986:

(1) What has been the total production of the Australian rice industry in the years 1984-85 and 1985-86.

(2) How much rice, of this production, has found its way onto the export market, and which countries are involved.

(3) How many people are employed in the industry in-(a) production; (b) distribution; and (c) processing of rice based products.

(4) In view of reported uncertainty of the future of the industry towards its future, what measures are in place, or projected through the Industries Assistance Commission to give help either now or in the future.

Senator Button —The Minister for Trade has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) Production of Australian paddy rice was 864,000 tonnes in 1984-85 and 688,000 tonnes in 1985-86.

(2) On average, between 85 and 90 percent of Australian rice production is exported. Since July 1985 the country breakdown of exports has been confidential. In 1984-85, however Australia exported rice to 49 countries. Major markets in that year were Papua New Guinea (112,757 tonnes), Spain (60,280 tonnes), Hong Kong (54,595 tonnes), Saudi Arabia (25,042 tonnes) and Fiji (17,783 tonnes).

Rice harvested in one year is generally exported in the next. In the process of milling rice there is a 40 percent weight loss. Exports of Australian milled rice in 1984-85 and 1985-86 were 327,000 tonnes and 499,000 tonnes (preliminary estimate) respectively.

(3) Employment data requested are not available. In its submission to the recent IAC inquiry, the N.S.W. rice industry cited a study based on the most recently available census data (1980-81) which estimated direct employment in the industry in that State for 1980-81 at 3,170 (excludes employment in processing of rice based products).

Comparable data are not available in respect of Queensland. The industry in that State accounts for around 3% of Australian production and mainly supplies the domestic market.

(4) A reference was sent on 25 August 1986 to the Industries Assistance Commission (IAC) requiring an inquiry and reports on the industry's short and longer term assistance needs. The IAC's report on short term assistance released on 31 October 1986 is currently being considered by the Government. The final report is due in October 1987.