SUNRICE will slash just under 100 jobs due to the predicted severely reduced rice crop next year.
The company will be reconfiguring its Riverina milling, packing and warehouse operations over the coming eight months to cater for the low rice crop that is anticipated next year.
The reduced size of the 2019 rice crop is due to low water availability and high water prices and, is expected to be the second smallest on record, since the start of the Millennium Drought in 2003.
Carry over volumes will allow the continuation of a reconfigured milling program throughout 2019.
SunRice has said it is focused on minimising the number of job losses and is exploring all available options with employees and unions to retain as many people as possible.
This includes options to re-locate employees, job sharing and temporary leave.
However, the changes will mean a reduction in employee numbers across Riverina operations, with the company anticipating the loss of under 100 positions.
SunRice chief executive officer Rob Gordon the company remains “committed to the Riverina region”.
The proposed reconfiguration, which is subject to consultation with employees and unions, will see operational changes and shift restructuring at the Deniliquin and Leeton mills.
“Right now, our priority is the welfare of SunRice employees,” Mr Gordon said.
“This has been a very difficult decision and in no way reflects on the dedication or commitment of our people.
“We deeply regret the departure of loyal SunRice staff, and we look forward to returning to more normal production levels in the future when we can expand our workforce.
“We understand this is an uncertain time for our employees and their families, and, with this in mind, we have communicated details of the reconfiguration as early as possible.
“We are also committed to finalising the process as quickly as we are able to provide employees with certainty.”
The changes to operations will be undertaken in a phased approach to match the production requirements created by the reduced crop.
The first phase will take effect from January 2 and the final phase will be effective from July/August next year.
These activities will impact operational and support roles in the Riverina. Australian Grain Storage (AGS) will also adjust its working patterns, particularly in regard to mill supply positions.
The proposed changes include:
- Phase 1 - Reduction of Deniliquin Mill two shift structure from 24/7 to 24/5 will take effect from January 2.
- Phase 2 - Reduction of Deniliquin Mill one shift structure from 24/5 to 16/5 will take effect from January 31.
- Phase 3 – Will take effect from end of April 2019 at both Deniliquin and Leeton Mills. Deniliquin mill one will cease production and be placed into maintenance. Reduction of Deniliquin Mill two shift structure from 24/5 to 16/5. Reduction of Leeton Mill shift structure from 24/7 to 24/5
- Phase 4 – Reduction of Deniliquin Mill two shift structure from 16/5 to 8/5 will take effect from July/August 2019.
“The decision to reconfigure Riverina milling operations in 2019 is necessary to ensure a competitive and sustainable business for our employees, growers, shareholders and the communities we support,” Mr Gordon said.
“To build SunRice’s operational resilience, a key pillar of the 2022 Strategy has been to accelerate the build-out of our global supply chains.
“This ensures the business is well positioned to meet growing demand from our customers around the world and can mitigate against fluctuations in crop sizes during times of drought.
“In low Riverina crop years, SunRice can now flex its offshore supply chains to meet demand and maintain our presence in premium markets. This is an important investment to ensure the future viability of the Riverina rice industry for when normal growing conditions return.”
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