Australian Citrus Season Sees Improvement

Josh McGillInternational


There have been signs of improvement for the Australian citrus industry in the 2023 season compared to 2022.

Among other things, Citrus Australia Chief Executive Officer Nathan Hancock said fruit quality has improved this season. The tail end of the 2023 harvest has been particularly strong from a quality perspective, according to Hancock. “While the earlier fruit this season struggled a little with internal maturity … the mid- and late-season varieties are eating well,” he said.

Hancock said there has been much small fruit this season. “Across most growing regions, the 2022 spring did not provide enough hot, dry weather, which affected fruit set and consequently size,” he explained. “Early season navels were particularly small … Fruit sizing in the mid-season did improve overall despite a heavy crop, while the late-season crop load is lighter. The Valencia crop is light this year, with small fruit sizes expected unless we see warm weather through spring and summer, which may add size.”

While growers in southeastern Australia have faced some issues related to albedo breakdown for the second consecutive season, the impact is less severe than 12 months ago. “Albedo breakdown has been present in crops this year, but we’ve seen vast improvements in the way this has been managed compared to the 2022 season, which was particularly severe,” Hancock said. “Overall, fruit cosmetics this season have been very good.”

Mandarin production, which has continued to expand across the country, has seen some mixed results. Markets took time to adjust to an increase in early fruit supply. “For the first time, we have seen some significant yield increases from areas such as Far North Queensland, as well as Emerald,” said Hancock. “This has meant that more Australian mandarins are available earlier in the season.”

Mandarin exports started earlier this season, due to the increased volumes of early fruit. This gave growers options other than the domestic market early in the year. “The mandarin category continues to power ahead. We expect to see volumes continue to climb over coming seasons,” Hancock said.

The citrus industry has contended with rising production and transport costs since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with seasonal labor shortages. The price of agricultural inputs skyrocketed in 2021–22, with little relief for growers this year. “Higher costs include diesel, fertilizer, equipment and energy prices, while many growers and packers have found sourcing pallets difficult,” Hancock said.

A harvest labor shortage has been resolved to some degree, although the cost of harvesting citrus crops remains substantially higher than pre-pandemic times.

Like other Australian fresh produce industries, citrus has faced serious transport and logistics challenges since the onset of the pandemic. On the domestic front, the collapse of a major trucking company earlier this year compounded these issues.

Internationally, exporters have received some relief in terms of shipping costs and availability.

“At this stage, it’s fair to say it’s been a much better season than last year,” Hancock concluded.

Source: Citrus Australia

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