Citrus Australia has urged the country’s retailers to lift orange juice prices in the wake of seasonal production challenges.
The peak industry body’s CEO, Nathan Hancock, said prices currently being paid by supermarkets to juice companies do not reflect the seasonal environmental impacts 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,” he explained.
Estimates forecast a shortage of juicing oranges in the coming months. Crop production is estimated to be down by 45 per cent 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.”
Based on current rates, Hancock said producers are barely covering the cost of growing juicing fruit. Without pricing relief, he believes Australian consumers may not have access to orange juice made from Australian-grown fruit in as little as five years.
“Citrus Australia holds grave concerns that pressure placed by major retailers on processors of juice fruit is driving returns down and growers out of the industry,” Hancock said.
“There has been a 30 per cent 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.”