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Rice crops move north to combat drought -

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ELEANOR HALL: With irrigators struggling to get any water from the Murray-Darling Basin,
Australia's rice industry has been concerned it may not deliver a crop this year.

But some farmers say they've found a solution by looking north. They've identified a region that's
flush with rain and prone to flooding and it's just produced its first major rice crop.

Bronwyn Herbert reports from Lismore on the north coast of New South Wales.

BRONWYN HERBERT: The lush valleys around Lismore have traditionally been sugar cane and cattle
country but a new crop has people talking.

GARY WOOLLEY: This is what they call paddy rice. It is harvested out of the header.

BRONWYN HERBERT: After seven years of trials, Gary Woolley is harvesting his first significant rice
crop.

Normally rice growing relies on irrigation but this coastal crop has grown thanks to good rain all
year round.

GARY WOOLLEY: Dryland rice, you just plant it like you would barley or wheat. It just grows on the
natural rainfall. You don't irrigate it at all.

BRONWYN HERBERT: This crop survived more than 1500 millimetres of rain and was flooded for a month.
Gary Woolley is convinced his rice will make a profit and other farmers are keen to cash in.

RICK GOLLAN (PHONETIC): I thought, oh this rice just sounds unbelievable.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Rick Gollan was a sceptic but now he is one of 40 formers in the district signing
up to plant rice next season.

RICK GOLLAN: I grew 120 acres of soya beans and I lost 100 acres because they were in the lower
land. I had around about 60 acres of cane I lost in the lower land and I thought oh this rice just
sounds unbelievable.

Gary out here grew it. It is still here and he is getting some money out of it so a fella has got
to give it a go.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Plant geneticist Prof Robert Henry from Southern Cross University says global rice
shortages have led to higher prices.

He says there is a real opportunity to use Australia's high rainfall regions, like the north coast,
to farm rice.

ROBERT HENRY: Think about what we have been doing in the past. We have been growing rice in the
desert really with water that we have taken there.

That is very good in terms of the amount of light, we get great growth but we are growing it in
areas where we need to use excessive amounts of water.

Here on the coast we have got an opportunity to use the natural rainfall.

I think we will be exploring the production of rice right along the east coast and in the far
north. Quite a number of areas. All of those areas where there might be sufficient water.

BRONWYN HERBERT: For Gary Woolley, he says it just makes sense to move the crop to suit the
environment.

GARY WOOLLEY: Water is expensive and it'll get dearer. I see that upland rice is the way to go if
water is not going to get any cheaper.

ELEANOR HALL: That is rice farmer Gary Woolley, ending that report from Bronwyn Herbert.