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Friday, 16 September 1949

Mr POLLARD (BALLAARAT, VICTORIA) (Minister for Commerce and Agriculture) - The Australian Government is not taking any steps directly to increase the production of rice in this country. The Government has left the question, of increased production of that particular product to the good sense of the respective State governments, which are the production authorities inasmuch as they control the major volume of irrigation waters used for rice production. Up to the present, it appears to have been definite policy by the State governments concerned to refrain from increasing rice production. Two reasons exist for that policy. First, rice production requires very large quantities of irrigation water and it is felt that the greater proportion of our limited supplies of irrigation waters could be used more economically for the production of meat, dairy products and fruit. Secondly, and the Government of New South Wales particularly takes this view, it would be unwise to increase the production of rice substantially because of the likelihood that in the years ahead countries which were formerly huge producers of rice will come into their own again and Australia would be left with a surplus for which it would not be able to find a profitable market. We are at present supplying New Guinea's requirements of rice. I assume that the rice is exported in the condition in which the ordinary Australian householder purchases rice. I cannot say whether it is shipped in a polished, unpolished, semi-soft or semi-hard condition. I shall obtain that information for the honorable member. I am also unable to say whether, at present, rice is being exported to Ceylon. However, it has been our policy to send rice to countries such as Ceylon, Malaya and other Asiatic countries, as, in the main, the United Kingdom Government is responsible for supplying them with foodstuffs. Last year, at the request of the rice producers of Australia we sent a shipment of 4,000 tons of rice to the United Kingdom because the industry is anxious to enter that market again. However, as the United Kingdom Government was anxious to assist the Asiatic countries for which it has some responsibility in relation to the supply with foodstuffs or to assist other governments with which it is directly associated, it directed that some of that rice be exported to those countries.

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