The Citrus industry is undergoing significant expansion in the Gwydir Valley, with the primary producer, Vitonga Citrus, operating over a number of farms. The plantation currently covers approximately 272Ha, but is expanding annually, with 50Ha planted in 2017, and a further 30Ha in 2018. The plantation is scheduled to be 350Ha in the next few years, with a production capacity of 15,000tonnes.
The average citrus farm size in NSW is 15Ha. The Moree operations are significantly larger at well over 100Ha on each of the farms, making these plantations significantly more profitable and enabling them a global competitive edge.
Citrus is a relatively new industry in the region, with 75% of the trees under six years old. As existing trees mature, more are planted, and production per tree increases, the value of the citrus industry in the Moree Plains Shire will increase significantly. It is estimated that at full production citrus in the region will be returning over $1,000/ML EBIT. With a production target of 50 ton/Ha it is expected that Moree will produce in excess of 15,000 tonnes of oranges almost $4.3 million by 2020.
The citrus industry in the Gwydir Valley is part of the locally owned and vertically integrated Grove Juice business.
As with the Stahmann Farms and Gwydir Grove operations, the citrus market in Moree is driven by significant producer investment in the value chain. The oranges produced in Moree are transported to Warwick for processing at the new state of the art Grove Processing facility. The business has a strong focus on both the domestic and the export potential of juices.
Australia is currently one of the few citrus producing countries that are free from the virus Huanglongbing (HLB citrus greening). This has created an exciting opportunity for the industry to develop in northwest NSW, and Australia needs to maintain strict biosecurity standards to ensure we remain free from this, and other potential disease threats.