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Local citrus packs a punch

Fortunately, the driest May for 36 years isn’t expected to affect our burgeoning local citrus crop. In fact, the warm, dry days have made ideal ripening conditions – and growers are anticipating high-quality, sweet fruit for 2019.

Northern Valley Packers Manager and local citrus grower Shane Kay says, “Cool dry weather is actually what we want for fruit, but warm and dry is even better. Overall the fruit is a more medium size this year and therefore a bit sweeter.
“Of course we need rain to replenish our dams and groundwater, but at the moment it’s not critical for us.”

Shane, a Director of Citrus Australia, and committee member of WA Citrus, is responsible for overseeing production, packing and export for several large-scale citrus producers in the region – including Moora Citrus and now Taddei’s Orchard in Gingin.

Last week he met with Taddei’s Orchard Manager Steve Marchesano and Co-owner Robert Taddei to discuss future export plans for the local orchard, now the fourth-largest citrus producer in the state and the third largest in the Northern Valleys region after Moora Citrus and AGRIfresh (Dandaragan).

Taddei’s began as a small family business, with an orchard in High Wycombe planted by Robert Taddei’s parents. In 1994 the Taddei family moved the enterprise north, investing in a large West Gingin property. Today the orchard covers 97 hectares, planted with citrus for winter and stone fruit for summer. This month the citrus trees — Navel oranges, Clementine mandarins and Eureka lemons — are groaning under the weight of fruit ripe for the picking. Taddei Orchard expects to reap a harvest of over 2500 tonne of fruit.
Of course, Taddei’s is no longer a small family-run operation. Now with seven permanent staff, and continued growth, the company has its sights set on export to China – a market Australian citrus growers have been eyeing for some time.

“We’d like to be exporting 60-80% of our fruit – almost the flip side of what we’re doing now,” says Robert. “That’s why we thought joining forces with Northern Valleys Packers was the way to go. We can go back to being growers!”

Shane explains, “There’s a lot of paperwork and registrations to be done for export – as well as the packing and management. It’s just not viable if everyone is trying to do it themselves – we’re better off doing it together.” Collaboration has always been the key focus of the NVP – and investments made by the company into the best technology for sorting and grading have made the benefits of economy of scale available to growers throughout the region.

While China is a huge producer of citrus themselves, the counter season offers an enticing opportunity for Australian growers who benefit from a ‘clean and green’ image. “We’re in a unique situation – we’re quite lucky!” says Shane. “A lot of other commodities are trying to create a market – ours is calling us!”

There’s no danger of locals missing out with growers still getting very good prices in Perth. Coupled with ease of transport, the local market remains attractive and keeping our local retailers and consumers supplied with quality fruit remains a priority, but with a 30% increase in citrus plantings in the past 6-8 years throughout the state, an increase in production is imminent – and growers are ready.

“We’ve got a lot of young trees coming on,” says Steve, who as manager for the past 25 years has watched Taddei’s Gingin orchard grow from the ground up. “We’ve changed a few varieties around – you’ve got to keep up with it or you fall behind!”

Consumer demand has shifted production towards ‘easy peel, no seeds’ and growers have responded with a range of varieties to suit tastes. The sweet easy peel Clementine mandarins from Taddei’s, marketed under the original family brand name, Sandgroper, are hitting the local market now – and a lot of the local mandarins you’ll see in the shops now are Taddei’s! Look for the blue Western Australian Citrus sticker – then you can be sure you’re supporting local.

You can buy mandarins and lemons from Taddei Orchards and oranges from Moora Citrus at the Northern Valleys Locavore Store, 29 Binda Place, Bindoon – or online at www.nvls.com.au.

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