SA’s Valencia orange season has continued longer than expected this year with bumper crops being produced in most parts of the Riverland.
Although oranges have reached a quality size and high volume, Citrus Australia chairman Ben Cant said growers have had a challenging season because of oversupply and downward market pressure.
“Sales of Australian fresh-squeezed juice that uses Valencia oranges has been slow throughout the summer, anecdotally there are growers hanging onto fruit on the tree still,” he said.
“That is a concern because those trees will use more water with the fruit on them and water is becoming a scarce commodity at this point and time – it could impact next year’s crop too.
“The heavy crops have caused a reasonable availability of supply and of course that, coupled with slow sales in the juicing sector, has meant the juice inventory has not been chewed through as fast as it normally would.”
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Early-season Valencias picked in September and October are targeted at the export market but last year, that market evaporated.
Mr Cant said Australia’s direct competitor, South Africa, produced one of it largest orange crops.
“Effectively it pushed a lot of extra fruit into Japan and China at very low prices, so our growers were not able to pack and ship Valencias at a cost that was viable to make any money,” he said.
“It caused those export opportunities to evaporate and that has forced a surplus of fruit into the local market and juice sector.”
Waikerie citrus producer David Arnold said Valencia oranges generally had about a 40 per cent to 50pc pack rate for domestic and export markets, while the remaining fruit was absorbed into the livestock sector or juice market.
“The juice market is very important for the Valencia season most years, because it helps to pick up the price,” he said. “At any stage, our box rate a tonne can be as low as 27pc, the remainder goes to juice.”
Mr Arnold grows about 72 hectares of citrus with orange varieties making up about 80pc of the production.
Mr Arnold made about $400/t to $550/t for early-season Valencia oranges last year but at this stage of the season it has dropped to about $250-300/t, depending on fruit size.
“Because juice companies have such a build up of supplies and the United States Navel oranges have come into the market, it has put downward market pressure for Valencia growers,” he said.
Citrus SA chairman Steve Burdette said the state’s growers were beginning to make crop production estimates for other citrus varieties, and tonnage should be in line with past seasons.
“Lime picking has begun and Navel oranges will be in full swing just after Anzac Day through until about October,” he said.
SUMMER LEMONS UNDER PRESSURE
A lack of winter rainfall and cold spring conditions last year caused lemon production to slow during peak demand, making it a tougher season for SA’s growers.
Waikerie citrus grower David Arnold said summer lemon production equated for about 20 per cent of his overall lemon crop production.
“It is a lower production period but the consumer demand increases returns and makes up for it but this year, production was very low,” he said.
Growers begin picking the summer crop from November until about January, filling up to 10 bins each month in most seasons, but this year it was well below that.
“This year we have filled only a few bins – the less than desirable weather conditions clearly impacted flowering and fruit production,” Mr Arnold said.
- This story first appeared on the Stock Journal.