Breaking the drought: Australia citrus

12/21/2010 10:49:00 AM
Tom Karst

This 7-page report from USDA FAS gives the latest outlook on Australian citrus production,with news the eastern part of the country is finally emerging from a severe drought. Still, the U.S. importance to Australia orange exports have fallen significantly in the past five years. From the report.....

Eastern Australia appears to have finally broken the grip of the longest and most severe drought in recorded history. Total fresh orange production for 2011/12 (year begin April 2011) is forecast at 430,000 MT. This represents an increase of over ten percent and a return to levels experienced in 2009/10. Improved seasonal conditions, including the wettest spring on record, is expected to dramatically increase yield per tree and this should see overall production surge despite lower tree numbers and planted area. Total exports of fresh oranges for 2011/12 (year begin April 2011) are forecast at 120 TMT, up sharply on the revised estimate for the previous year.

Summary: Eastern Australia appears to have finally broken the grip of the longest and most severe drought in recorded history. Widespread heavy rainfall arrived on Christmas day 2009 and began a period of above-average rainfall which has continued throughout CY 2010 and up until the time of writing this report. At times, rainfall through CY 2010 caused widespread flooding. These conditions remain in stark contrast to severe drought conditions currently being experienced in Western Australia.

Drought-breaking rainfall arrived in time to improve the quality of the 2010/11 crop and has greatly improved production prospects for the 2011/12 crop. Record rainfall over the recent spring period has greatly improved soil moisture and completely recharged irrigation water reserves. This is expected to improve production prospects for the 2011/12 crop.

Recent travel undertaken by Post has revealed concern among industry sources regarding the historically high value of the Australia dollar. The value of the Australian dollar, which recently achieved parity with the US dollar, has eroded export returns, particularly for exports to the US, one of Australia’s key export markets.
At the time of writing this report, the 2010/11 orange crop (year begin April 2010) is all but harvested while the 2011/12 orange crop (year begin April 2011) is at the early fruit-let stage.

Planted area: 
Planted area has been forecast to decline slightly to 19,500 hectares in 2011/12. Improved rainfall and irrigation water supplies are likely to see planted area fall only slightly, unlike the much larger annual falls experienced during the long running and severe drought which began in 2002/03.

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