LEETON shire mayor Paul Maytom has admitted he feels devastated at this week's announcement 55 more jobs will be cut from the town's SunRice mill.
He said the feeling of dread he feels for the future of rice in the MIA continues to haunt him. This is something he doesn't see changing unless action is taking on the water market system.
Councillor Maytom believes this system is one of the sole reasons growers aren't planting crops like rice, resulting then in the ongoing job losses.
SunRice announced on Tuesday it would be cutting 55 more jobs from its Leeton plant operations, 25 from Deniliquin and 20 from the company's subsidiary Australian Grain Solutions.
These job losses mean there has been 230 people let go since November last year across these areas.
"This news is devastated for these staff members, their families and indeed for our community itself," Cr Maytom said.
"I really feel for these people. The situation we are in now compared to when SunRice was making redundancies in 2007-08 is completely different.
"The droughts are getting longer, allocations lower and farmers can't afford to buy water to put these crops in.
"There needs to be more equity in the water market.
"Until that happens, I can only see things getting worse. I'm not a "doomsdayer", but the government needs to take some action now. Our communities are suffering."
SunRice said it had taken significant steps, including putting record prices to growers in August 2019, in a bid to stimulate plantings for the 2020 crop, which has ensured a milling program should be maintained at the Deniliquin and Leeton mills until at least early 2021.
SunRice chief executive officer Rob Gordon said it was "with deep regret we been forced to make another series of changes to our Riverina operations ahead of the 2020 harvest".
"We understand that these changes have been, and continue to be very unsettling, and we remain committed to providing as much notice as possible to our employees throughout the process," he said.
Cr Maytom said while there were greenfields sites being used to plant "high-value" crops downstream from Leeton, irrigated agriculture in the MIA would continue to suffer.
"This is why the situation is so different now ... it's not so easy to bounce back even in good years now," he said.
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