The Australian orange juice industry is "at a crossroads" and needs a radical shakeup in order to survive, says Citrus Australia chief executive officer, Nathan Hancock. Hancock spoke to orange growers, processors and other industry players at the Griffith Ex-Servicemen's Club last week.
He was one of the speakers at the 2019 Citrus Australia Juice Forum, which was held over a two-day conference on June 12 and June 13.
Technology will help lower citrus production costs
The industry experts came to discuss the challenges facing orange growers, such as the decrease in orange prices after three years of high returns. Hancock said he expected citrus supply to continue increasing, meaning Australian citrus growers would need to act fast to avoid further losses: "We can't as growers keep producing product the way that we are and remain in this business. We don't want the juice industry to disappear because it's a way you can diversify your business."
But the forum wasn't all doom and gloom; he said there were two big opportunities for the industry, the first being China's growing demand for juice and the second being innovation.
NSW Department of Primary Industries citrus development officer, Andrew Creek, talked enthusiastically about some of the innovations being made at Griffith's research station.
New citrus varieties, new growing techniques, and new technology are some of the innovations being homegrown in Griffith. He said the future looked positive, especially with some recent cash injections by the state and federal government as well as investments by Griffith and District Citrus Growers.
After the forum people took a tour of some local farms to see some of the new techniques already being implemented in the region, such as Salustiana pruning strategies and high density trees managed with dwarfing viroid.
In March this year Citrus Australia set up a juice committee, which was set up with the lofty goal of increasing returns for growers back to $420 per tonne.