New South Wales: Australian farmers grow some of the same specialty crops as we do in California, including citrus. Frank Mercuri, chairman of Pacific Fresh, hosted us for a tour of as citrus packing house and an orchard. Pacific Fresh is owned by 8 farmers and packs for another 22 growers. The co-op was established in 1997 and has quickly grown to the country’s fifth-largest. It is affiliated with Sunkist in California. Exports are critical to the Australian citrus industry. It ships 65 percent of its production overseas.
Frank told us Valencia prices are almost double this year –even for juice. This is in part due of the loss of Florida Valencia orchards to Huanglongbing, or citrus greening, the disease carried and spread by the Asian citrus psyllid. This is yet another example of how interconnected we are in the world of agriculture
In the middle of Vallerosa Orchard (named for the small Italian town where Frank’s parents were born) we had a great discussion about water, the water trading system of Australia, and how this area of New South Wales has thrived. Growers in this region had full water allocations even during the drought. Water use efficiency has increased in recent years, which has allowed growers to sell water on a short-term basis some years, making the water an asset on their balance sheets.
Here’s a member of our delegation, Emily Rooney, president of the Agricultural Council of California.