Steven Chaur - Nutrano

"Quality for us starts more than 12 months before the crop is even harvested"

The Nutrano Produce Group started in December 2015 after purchasing the banana ripening and wholesale markets stands from Oakville Produce. The principal business in those days was the supply and ripening of high volumes of bananas, mainly to major national supermarkets and to wholesale customers through wholesale market stands in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. Bananas are a 52 week a year business relying heavily on good supply chain management and solid supplier relationships.
In December 2016, Nutrano acquired the Seven Fields and Abbotsleigh farming business which made Nutrano a fully integrated produce business supplying premium fruit from its farms in Queensland, Northern Territory and Victoria. Nutrano currently exports to over 15 countries and demand from Asia is growing rapidly.

"In early 2017, Nutrano acquired the national marketing rights for Barbera Farms in Bundaberg, one of the largest Australian growers of premium field tomatoes, capsicums and zucchinis," explains Steven Chaur, Managing Director, Nutrano Produce Group. "Soft produce is now a key pillar for Nutrano and further growth plans are in place."

"The business is performing very well to date and we continue to experience growth across all our core strategic categories which includes bananas, citrus, mangoes, avocados, blueberries, soft produce and grapes."

"But like any fresh produce business, we are not immune to the seasonal agricultural challenges which impact farm performance," said Chaur. "Strategically we can help mitigate such risks through having farm geographic diversity in our growing regions and across our product categories. That simply means we don’t rely on one specific growing region or only one type of product category in our business model, which helps spread risk and ensure business performance."

The major emphasis for the company recently has been around bringing the companies together as “One Nutrano” - driving operational synergies, business and process integration, culture and values alignment and having a core category sales focus. The Nutrano business is now a fully integrated fresh produce operation across Australia with a solid farming, operations and supply chain focus for premium fruits to wholesale, supermarkets and global export customers.

Last week the group announced the rebranding of Seven Fields. The business will in future be known as Nutrano Produce Group Limited.

Seven Fields includes around 1,000 hectares of citrus, mango, blueberry, avocado and banana plantations in the Sunraysia, Northern Territory and Queensland regions, with over 400 hectares of unplanted land scheduled for expansion of additional trees and new varieties.

Chaur, said the retirement of the Seven Fields name was an important step in Nutrano’s growth.

“Nutrano is our company name, and it is important that we start to become known that way to ensure we can leverage our growing scale, premium quality produce and end-to-end capabilities across farming, wholesale markets, ripening and export.

The rebranding of Seven Fields to Nutrano is under way with customer and supplier communications, signage changes and new Nutrano-branded staff attire and contact details

The main advantage of being fully integrated is that Nutrano can have greater control over the quality of its own farm grown produce throughout the supply chain to customers.

"That quality starts with how we manage the on-farm programs from orchard preparation to harvest and then through the supply chain. Quality for us starts more than 12 months before the crop is even harvested by ensuring orchard and tree health to deliver maximum fruit quality and volume yield. We also have a lot of happy and dedicated permanent and seasonal staff who love what they do. Our quality system and product specification assurance programs are especially important with our supermarket and export customers, who expect high quality."
Chaur goes on to say that customers increasingly want to work directly with growers like Nutrano to ensure quality consistency, seasonal volume availability and innovation. "Having such an end to end integrated model allows Nutrano to forward plan its sales and promotional activities with customers, as well as balance our crop to meet premium pack out grades and increased global demand."

Citrus demand is growing strongly in the Asia Pacific region, not just in Australia. According to Chaur, Nutrano could have comfortably sold most of its citrus crop internationally this past season due to growing demand from their major Asian customers for their Sunwest Afourer mandarins and Abbotsleigh seedless lemons.

"It’s a good problem to have but disappointing when you have to advise customers there is no more stock available this season. Practically, managing demand in the harvest period is simply around allocation of the harvest based on best returns for premium product. Sometimes we will purchase fruit to meet additional demand. Planning for the future is around orchard management, planting programs and ensuring diversity of varieties and growing regions to extend seasonal availability of fruit."
"Nutrano is quite well placed with its many citrus orchards to have a good harvest spread over the year in some citrus varieties and across our 1,000+ hectares of farms, we have a young orchard profile which is expected to deliver additional volume in the coming years. We are also planting additional available farm acreage with new citrus trees and actively looking to acquire additional properties to meet our projected demand growth."

Around 30% of what the group grows today is exported across the globe, this is combined with a very healthy domestic sales program to major supermarkets. Across Asia, Nutrano has established volumes and growing demand from key customers in Indonesia, China, Japan, Hong Kong and Korea.

"China and Japan are increasingly becoming major export markets for our Abbotsleigh brand Honey Murcott mandarins and Navel orange varieties, as our growing season is complementary to their own citrus season and the Asian palate is changing toward a sweeter and easier to eat citrus offer."

Nutrano, as a primary grower of premium Australian citrus, certainly sees export growth as a core strategy pillar and expect that part of the business to expand to 40%+ of the harvest program in years to come, with the remaining 60% being premium domestic supermarket sales as farm volumes increase over the next 5 years.

Nutrano is one of the largest growers and suppliers of premium seedless Afourer easy peel mandarins in Australia. The group also grows many other citrus varieties in different growing regions to ensure that they can extend the domestic supply seasons for customers and export markets. Nutrano grows many citrus varieties, including in the mandarin stable Afourer, Imperials, Hickson’s and Murcotts. In oranges, they grow varieties such as Navels, Washington, Late Lane and some new ruby flesh varieties. Abbotsleigh grown lemons and new seedless lemon varieties are considered premium and always in high demand, with their Katherine grown lemons gaining solid volume momentum over the summer months.

Citrus supply is a competitive global market and Australia is only one player competing against South Africa, Chile and many other countries. Market prices can vary from year to year by Asian country, based on the seasonal performance in the supplying country, so quality and consistency of supply become a key competitive advantage. Australia generally has a great reputation for its Class I citrus and Nutrano is well-regarded in its core Class I citrus varieties with the Sunwest and Abbotsleigh brand names with key international customers. Generally, Nutrano’s export sales have grown year on year and crop prices have been steady for the company.

Nutrano is well poised to deliver future farm volume increases and export sales growth in coming years, both organically and through further farm acquisitions.

"Our existing orchard profile is young and set to deliver increased volumes of around +30% uplift in the next few years. Further, we have an additional 400Ha (40%) of our available farm land vacant and earmarked for additional plantings of citrus in the next 12-24 months. This will include premium citrus and other strategic fruit crops such as mangoes, avocados and blueberries. Over the next 5 years Nutrano has a solid appetite to acquire additional established farms to further expand our geographic profile, extend harvest seasons, enhance varietal opportunities and drive premium grade fruit volumes," concludes Chaur.

For more information
Steven Chaur
Nutrano Produce Group
Phone: +61 3 9428 1748

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