For growers who survived the citrus glut, the turnaround to a boom in fruit exports to Asia and a shortage of Valencia juice is sweet.
Only seven years ago, growers could not even give away their Valencia oranges, which were competing with cheap imported Brazilian concentrate.
Many bulldozed their trees and fed oranges to cattle.
If they replanted with premium sweet table fruit varieties, and geared up for exports, they are now tasting success.
The volume of citrus heading overseas has grown in 10 years, from $185 million in 2007 to $328 million today.
The biggest market today is China, but it took a tiny 2,000 tonnes a decade ago, although much more went through the grey channel in Hong Kong and across the border.
Asian markets reinvigorate industry
Ten years on, after some hard marketing and quarantine legwork, China took 40,000 tonnes in 2016, an increase of 420 per cent over that time.
Japan, already a big market, grew 43 per cent over the decade, taking 38,000 tonnes of fresh fruit.
Other Asian markets also are buying, some off a low base such as the Philippines, which 10 years ago imported nothing but bought 6,000 tonnes of citrus in 2016, an increase of 480 per cent.
“The demand for Australian premium citrus, especially in our Asian markets, has really reinvigorated the industry,” Citrus Australia chairwoman Tania Chapman said, at a packing shed in Mildura.
“It has growers investing in new varieties, new cultural practices.
“So it’s been a real boon for not only the industry, but the regions in which citrus is grown.”
Hard work pays off for grower
One of those growers is Alan Whyte, at Jamesville Station near Mildura.
Irrigating his trees in the clear outback skies, he can grow premium fruit that will not be sold in Australian supermarkets.
“It’s 10 years hard work to set up relationships and that’s working well,” he said.
“But effectively people in Asia, particularly China, are prepared to pay very good money for very good fruit.”
Mr Whyte grows cara cara, a pink flesh sweet navel orange, plus navels and fura mandarins.
“It’s a very good business at the moment,” he said.
Fruit juice varieties in short supply
Many growers, including Mick Auddino at Leeton, put a bulldozer through their farms to take out Valencia trees seven years ago because the fruit was worthless.
But Mr Auddino kept some Valencias, and the price has gone from about $40 a tonne to almost $600 a tonne this year.
Arriving early at the Canberra region farmers market each Saturday, Mr Auddino is excited by the exchange with consumers prepared to pay for local fruit.
“It’s just amazing, never been heard of. The prices last Valencia season, everybody was fighting for them … the prices were up and up,” he said.
The domestic shortage is compounded by a bacterial disease in the world’s largest orange-producing regions of Florida and Brazil.
Huanglongbing is carried by the psyllid insect, originated in China, and has spread through South East Asia and now America.
In Florida, it has halved production, according to Citrus Australia.
The disease is not in Australia, but it is thought of as the foot and mouth disease of the horticulture world.
Mr Whyte will keep his line of exporting varieties, refusing to plant Valencias because they are too volatile.
“I simply don’t grow fruit for juice. I don’t make money out of it,” he said.
Original article on ABC