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Historical document

Co-ordinating a market development program for the Australian citrus value chain (CT09055)

Key research provider: Citrus Australia Limited
Publication date: July, 2013

This is a final research report from Hort Innovation’s historical archives. Please note that as these reports may date back as far as the 1990s, the content and recommendations within them may be superseded by more recent research.

What was it all about?

The Australian citrus industry is one of this country’s largest and most valuable horticultural industries. At the time Citrus had grown commercially in every state or territory of Australia except for Tasmania and the ACT. This wide spread of production into many different climatic zones allowed for a large range of varieties to be grown, providing supply across the entire year. The 28,000 hectares of citrus farmed by 1,800 growers produced annual crops of around 600,000 tonnes, with a farm gate value of approximately $450m. The markets for this produce were segmented into 3 sectors: domestic fresh; export fresh; and processed juice.

The Australian citrus industry faced many challenges, but also had several exciting new opportunities within its grasp. Some of these opportunities, such as developing new export markets in Asia, required significant technical and marketing inputs. Other initiatives, such as instilling a quality culture into our industry, required major mindset changes.

This project had aimed to drive and coordinate all aspects of citrus market development, with the primary goal of increasing citrus consumption domestically and on overseas markets, thereby improving industry prosperity and sustainability.

We followed value chain thinking throughout this project, and attempted to facilitate a change in attitude regarding the current citrus supply chain. As with most other primary produce supply chains in Australia, the main driver of the chain was the production base at the time. Product was generally ‘pushed’ up the chain, often with scant attention paid to the requirements and preferences of buyers and consumers. This approach resulted in unwanted product (wrong timing, quantity, quality) being foisted onto markets, with inevitable loss of value. This project soguht to reverse that mindset: consumer requirements (and hence market demand) should become the starting point for ‘pulling’ product through the chain, and a quality culture was essential.

Our key activities in this project fell into 10 main areas: export market development; domestic market development; variety development; orchard production issues; market information; agrichemical issues; biosecurity; R&D planning & implementation; international linkages; communications.

Our main drive in the export arena had been to focus the industry on new Asian markets, notably China, South Korea and Thailand. We led trade missions to these markets, hosted and participated in in-bound missions, and worked on market access protocols to ease trade restrictions. Our chief achievement in the domestic market segment had been development of the Australian Citrus Quality Standards program. This program, which educated and monitored industry’s performance in delivering good tasting citrus to market, had gained serious traction in all levels of the value chain.

Our Variety Committee arranged a major series of new variety workshops, which helped spur a restructuring of the citrus plantings base towards products more preferred by consumers here and overseas. We organised a national campaign to reduce over-cropping (and hence small fruit size) of navel oranges in the 2011 season, and also held workshops to educate Imperial mandarin growers on ways to prevent fruit dryness.

Agrichemical usage posed many challenges for industry, and we arranged a proactive, industry-wide approach to reviewing the agrichemicals needed to manage our key pest and disease issues. To back up our excellent reputation for delivery of safe food, we developed an agrichemical residue testing program, initially for Japan only, but now extended to all domestic and export markets.

A major effort was dedicated to developing the industry’s new 5-year strategic R&D plan. We consulted extensively with industry, and gained consensus on the key priorities for investment of levy funds.

All our activities were communicated to our industry via conferences, national and regional forums, grower workshops, our website and electronic news, and extensively through articles in the industry magazine, Australian Citrus News.

This project had succeeded in initiating value chain thinking in the citrus industry. Although there was still much work to do, it was very pleasing to see the vast majority of our growers, packers and marketers all focused on delivering safe, high quality citrus products which would create consumer pull and generate greater prosperity for the Australian citrus industry. 

Related levy funds

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Funding statement:
This project was funded by Hort Innovation (then Horticulture Australia Limited) with the financial support of Citrus Australia Limited, Fruit West, Citrus Growers of South Australia, South Australian Citrus Industry Development Board and the citrus industry.

Copyright © Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited 2013. The Final Research Report (in part or as whole) cannot be reproduced, published, communicated or adapted without the prior written consent of Hort Innovation (except as may be permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)).