ORANGE juice processors will need to look at long term contracts if they’re going to shore up supply from local growers.
Right now imported fruit is being used to supplement dwindling stocks of local Orange juice because growers are pulling out their juicing varieties like Valencia to capitalise on demand for fresh varieties like Navel in China.
“Growers are now in the business of being profitable. At the start of the season the price on offer for Valencias weren’t meeting the cost of production,” said Citrus Australia chairwoman Tania Chapman.
She said three to five year contracts were needed to give growers confidence in their plantings.
“Local supply is definitely shrinking and that’s a trend that’s here to stay.”
Last year the country’s biggest Valencia producer at Hillston completely switched from juicing to fresh varieties. The move came as the Australian citrus industry reached a new export record of 220,000 tonnes valued at $335 million.
“Even on my own property at Mildura, normally I would be picking Valencias through until the end of March but the returns being offered to me from exporters was too good.”
Last year about 40,000t of Australian citrus was sent to China and 38,000t to Japan.
Ms Chapman said China paid a premium for Australian citrus but the profit margins weren’t as generous.
“It costs growers about $3000 a hectare more to prepare their farm to send that produce to China.”