Chinese demand drives Aussie citrus industry boom

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CANBERRA, Nov. 27 (Xinhua) -- Australia's citrus fruit industry has experienced a boom on the back of high demand from China, a recent report by Citrus Australia revealed.

Australian citrus exports for the 12 months ending in September were worth 286 million U.S. dollars, a 31-percent increase on the 12 months prior.

Export volumes also rose considerably, up 18 percent to 220,754 tonnes of fruit.

The average price per kg of Australian citrus fruit has risen from 78 U.S. cents in 2011 to 1.29 U.S. dollars in 2017.

China represented the biggest growth opportunity with 45,000 tonnes being exported to China alone, a 52-percent increase.

"The numbers into China are now off the charts," Citrus Australia chairwoman Tania Chapman told Fairfax Media on Monday.

"If we talk about China, six or seven years ago zero containers (of Australian citrus) went into the front door of China. Now we're looking down the barrel of 80,000 tonnes this season.

"There's a large number of companies in China wanting to buy the Valencias so that they can juice them."

"The industry certainly is on a high and is performing well ... Not only are we exporting record volume, but growers are actually being paid more for that produce. So that's really important for the industry."

Chapman said that the boom had been so profound that growers were now facing waiting lists of up to four years to get citrus trees from nurseries.

The Australian Security Exchange (ASX) listed Costa Group has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the boom. The company's share price has soared from 1.71 U.S. dollars when it was first listed to 4.78 U.S. dollars currently.

Costa Group owns five farms in New South Wales (NSW) with more than 1,900 hectares of citrus trees.

"An indication of growth in demand from overseas is that only a few years ago we were exporting 45 to 55 per cent of the crop. This season it will be 70 percent," Costa Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Harry Debney said. Enditem

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