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Emily French

BY EMILY FRENCH

Murray Valley Citrus Board to close

The Supreme Court has ruled against the board's compulsory levy, without which it will cease operations

Murray Valley Citrus Board to close

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The Murray Valley Citrus Board (MVCB), the last regional citrus board in Australia, is set to finish up operations in the coming weeks after a Supreme Court ruling against a mandatory levy, the ABC reports.

The ruling prevents the MVCB from continuing to impose a compulsory levy of A$5.50 (US$5.12) for every tonne of fruit that growers produced.

The MVCB has operated for 24 years, and generated two-thirds of its income from the levy.

However, this was challenged by citrus exporters Seven Fields and Wiffen Holdings, resulting in the MVCB and the state government being taken to court.

After the growers’ win, the court has also ordered the MVCB and government pay the two exporters’ legal costs.

While the MVCB would be allowed to continue operations, chairman John Tesoriero has said that the organisation will not be able to continue without the levy.

"With the demise of the Murray Valley citrus board, there will be gaps in the work obviously that the board used to do," he told the ABC. "We've identified a critical area being the greater Sunraysia pest free area and we've been talking to Sunraysia citrus growers about continuing that program."

According to agriculture minister Peter Walsh, the state government is considering appealing the ruling, but no final decision has yet been made.

Meanwhile, the Australian citrus industry has enjoyed a strong year, with excellent international demand and a lower Australian dollar creating the ideal market conditions.

Ritchie Roberts, divisional manager of the citrus category at Costa in Renmark, has also put the successful season down to an early finish from California.

"The Californian citrus season finished much earlier this year, so when we started packing navels in May the markets were quite empty and looking for fruit and that's meant pretty strong demand right through the season," he told the ABC.

 

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