Australian citrus crop looks 'lighter', but still early days -

Australian citrus crop looks 'lighter', but still early days

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Australian citrus crop looks 'lighter', but still early days

Citrus Australia CEO Judith Damiani says the country's orange crop is looking 'lighter' for 2012, but it is still early to tell exactly what volumes will be.

"It's still early days but I don't think we'll have such a large crop next year, and we still don't know how the fruit will size," she tells

"It was such a pressure cooker for the industry this year, so anything that takes the weight of volumes is a positive, or a favorable exchange rate. It would be good to have everything lining up for us.

"Again, exports are going to depend on exchange rates, but if there's a more favorable supply and size, then I think we will have an increase in exports."

Damiani's comments come as a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) report has forecast similar production levels in 2012 and a slight rise in exports.

The department's Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) Australia Citrus Annual 2011, estimated production of 440,000 metric tons (MT) of fresh oranges next year, supported by an improved water supply situation.

"Total exports of oranges are expected to increase modestly in 2012/13, with exports to traditional markets, such as the United States continuing to decline and exports to Japan continuing to increase," the report said.

"In the past year, the Australian dollar has achieved record high valuations against the US dollar and this has placed downward pressure on exports to the United States, historically Australia's largest export market.

The report estimated exports of 95,000MT for  the 2011-12 year, while the 2012-13 harvest will commence in April with forecast exports of 100,000MT for the 2012-13 season.

Damiani adds that Australia has had positive results with mandarin shipments and is looking for more opportunities in Asia.

"Mandarins had a very good export season. We actually broke a record, so export increases for easy peelers will be a trend going forward," she says.

"There are more opportunities in Japan, and there are also the markets that haven't developed fully like Korea and China where we're pushing for growth.

"With the U.S. market it's very much driven by the exchange rate and the high costs, but when there's a more favorable exchange rate I think volumes to the U.S. will increase."

The GAIN report highlighted the production would need to be maintained through improved yields as plantation area was falling.

"The Australin citrus industry, like all Australian horticultral industries, continues to face the long-term trend of steadily declining planted area and tree numbers.

"The Australian citrus industry will likely continue to rely on steadily increasing tree density as well as improved productivity per tree in order to maintain production levels and industry value."

The report said crop quality was likely to improve for the 2012 harvest, following mild conditions last summer which led some fruit to suffer from a lack of brightness in color.

GAIN expects Australia's record orange imports of 24,000MT that was reached this year to be maintained in 2012, with the bulk of the fruit coming from the U.S.

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