Australia: orange juice imports decline, alongside consumption
Sourcing of local versus imported fruit arose as a major topic at the hearing. Although Brazilian juice concentrate may be on the decline, council CEO Geoff Parker explained that consumption is also down.
"In 2010, there was approximately 32,000 tons of concentrate sourced from Brazil. In 2012, that had dropped to 15,000 tons, so it's on the way down. That unfortunately is reflected by the fact that juice consumption overall is also declining as Australians turn away from juice," Parker told ABC Rural.
Several topics were discussed to promote the use of local fruit, including clearer labeling regulations and requirements for minimum local content.
"It's becoming increasingly more difficult to be able market Australian-grown orange juice when we can't even tell what's Australian-grown orange juice. How can we tell the consumer, 'you should support A, B and C labels' when it may be Australian content today and Chinese content tomorrow?" one grower told ABC Rural.
"So if we had the ability to go out there and say, 'these are the brands that we want to support,' we can then drive the consumer and then in a round-about way help consumption of Australian citrus."
Parker explained, however, that Australia's current fruit production comes with limits.
"One of the problems we have in Australia is that there isn't enough Valencia crop being produced," he said.
"Unfortunately, Navel oranges can't be used in juice, or rather only a small amount, possibly up to a 5 or 10% blend of Navel juice can be used in juice because the Navel oranges are too bitter."
In April, Citrus Australia forecast downward pressure on Valencia crop volume, due in part to heavy hedging and late hanging of crops. Navel volume, in contrast, was expected to be up 12% compared to 2012.