Australian fresh produce company, Mattina Fresh, is using the challenging international trade conditions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic to help consolidate and strengthen its standing in the domestic market.

National Sales Director Thomas Panna says the company chose to stay away from export markets in the citrus category this season, and instead planted 360 acres of its own fruit in Griffith, New South Wales.

"We thought it would be best to have a gap year because the markets are so unsettled with COVID," he said. "Then there are also oversupplies on the domestic market, so we wanted to sit back and through the winter we were focused on our pome fruit season - that has led us to the apricot season now, and we are just two weeks away from nectarines and peaches."

He says the company packs citrus for other growers in the region, but across the winter, Mattina Fresh planted several varieties of oranges, such as Navels, Late Lanes, Washingtons, Cara Caras, and even seedless Valencias. Mr Panna says there are exciting times ahead for the citrus category.

"We were orange focused," Mr Panna said. "It is alternative cropping for us and to also grow our winter trade. The domestic market loves citrus anyway, especially with the Vitamin C perspective and what it does nutritionally. That's become even more important through COVID, but I think the Vitamin C benefits will always be important. Citrus is very easy when it comes to shipping and handling, when the export markets do re-open; the fruit can travel for 4-6 weeks and then have 2-3 weeks shelf life at the other end. We replaced the stone fruit plantings (in NSW) with citrus and also bought an additional farm to add into the program."

Mr Panna added that with pome fruit this winter, the volume of sales was still there, but the pricing was a little down.

"I think that the major retailers found a point where it sold, but in reflection to last year, it was probably between $1.07-$1.19 down on the year on year figures," Mr Panna said. "That's a combination of not having the export markets there, so you don't have the cream that we have all worked to rely on. But domestically, we were happy that we could sell the fruit in the time that we want, which is always pre-October. It was very hard in terms of price per kilogram, because of all the challenges around the industry, especially labour. That is expected to be a continuous battle over the next twelve months, I think."

On the planting front, Mattina Fresh also replaced its apple production in Cobram with pears, and Mr Panna says "the business is focused on being commercial packers and growers, in the pear, citrus and our backbone which is stone fruit - and we like to pack what we grow".

For more information
Thomas Panna
Mattina Fresh
Phone: +61 419 315 030