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CEO Citrus Australia:

Poor prices could spell the end for fresh Australian orange juice

According to Citrus Australia, major retailers must lift the prices they pay juice growers, as the latter are facing a decline in production.

Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock says prices paid for fresh juice by supermarkets to juice companies does not reflect the seasonal environmental impacts of frost and drought on the 2019/20 Valencia crop.

“This limits the amount of money that juice processors can pay growers, which will exacerbate the long-term decline in juice variety production,” Hancock said.

“The juice growing industry is under immense pressure and Australian consumers may not have access to fresh Australian orange juice in as little as five years. Such a situation would be devastating for Australian consumers. We implore our major retailers to recognise the impact seasonal conditions are having on our growers and to lift their prices accordingly.”

Hancock said estimates forecast a shortage of juicing oranges in the coming months. Crop production is estimated to be down by 45% in Australia’s juice variety capital, the Riverina, which equates to 60,000 tonnes less fruit this season.

“This decrease can be attributed to seasonal events including frosts in September and October followed by two heat waves over the Christmas and New Year period,” Hancock said. “The high cost of water and low returns for juicing oranges mean less incentive to irrigate and maintain the crop.”

Hancock said growing juice fruit is unprofitable based on current rates, which barely cover the cost to grow the fruit. “There has been a 30% decrease in the production base over the last 18 years and that is set to escalate. We call on retailers to acknowledge the current difficulties faced by growers and to lift their prices for this premium product."

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