Frank Battistel, chairman of the Riverina Citrus Committee – the representative body for Australia’s largest citrus growing area, told Australian online farming magazine The Land that large volumes of the crop may be dumped this year because no market wants to buy it.
“Most of our growers in the `Riverina – New South Wales` region are being crucified by the Australian dollar, which makes our exports uncompetitive and sees the Australian market flooded with fruit destined for export as well as cheap juice imports,” Mr Battistel said in an interview published today (June 8).
“The three great unknowns are how high the dollar will go, what the government will do to help Australian agriculture and how long individual citrus farmers can continue to make a significant loss on their crops.
“Today we do not have any clear answers to those questions but I can tell you, first hand, that we are hurting – and it only looks likely to get worse unless something is done,” he said.
“Our key export markets won’t buy our fruit because the price is too high and the costs for many Riverina farmers to harvest their crop is more than they could ever hope to make, especially with the exchange rate sitting as high as it is.
“The markets we are competing with don’t face the challenges of a floating dollar as we do.
“Rubbing salt into the wounds is the fact that our crop forecast for this year is amazing compared to previous years.
“Unless something changes rapidly, a massive amount of fruit will have to be dumped this year. Unless the government sees this problem for what it is, and offers some help I’m very nervous about the future for citrus growers and every other sector of agriculture across the country,” Mr Battistel said.
The Riverina is the largest citrus growing region in Australia. It produces approximately 30 per cent of Australia’s total citrus products and is a major citrus exporter.