AUSTRALIAN fresh fruit exports exceeded a billion dollars in 2018 for the second consecutive year, with citrus leading the way.
Speaking at the 2019 Citrus Technical Forum in Adelaide earlier this month, Citrus Australia chief executive officer, Nathan Hancock, said the industry had made considerable advances in export markets in the past few years.
"There were 250,000 tonnes of citrus exported last year, generating $453 million in exports," he said.
Mr Hancock said downturns in crops such as mandarins affected trade, but this decreased quantities only marginally.
- Photos from the Citrus Technical Forum 2019 in Adelaide
- Diverse varieties, new methods drive Riverland citrus revival
- The late John Davidson honoured with Citrus Hall of Fame induction
"Overall we were only 4.5 per cent down in volume, but we were up in value," he said.
With China being the main export destination, taking 45pc of the market which mostly goes to three key ports, Mr Hancock said growth into areas of greater China and other nations such as India, Japan and Korea was key.
"It's time to do some expansion, and the reason being is that we have competition breathing down our neck," he said.
"We've already felt the impact of South African Valencias coming into the market, which meant we had to adjust our shipments.
"Even though we have a different product, it still had a disruptive effect."
The high quality of Australian citrus products gives Australia a competitive edge, and Mr Hancock said maintaining this standard had to be a priority moving forward.
It's time to do some expansion, and the reason being is that we have competition breathing down our neck.
"The second biggest standalone export market after China is Japan, which values high quality product," he said.
"That's what citrus from Australia tries to classify itself as: a very high quality product. But we have to keep improving our fruit quality both internally and externally."
Despite the successes abroad, Mr Hancock said it was important to focus on potential risks on home soil.
Citrus canker has affected citrus growers in WA and the NT, which Mr Hancock said was a wake up call that exotic pests were present in the country.
Huanglongbing - previously known as citrus greening disease - is not yet present in Australia, but has devastated crops overseas.