BY the time Leon Caccaviello is finished, there won't be a valencia orange tree left standing in his 80ha Tooleybuc citrus orchard.
The combination of poor prices, a high Australian dollar, an oversupply of fruit on the domestic market and the impossibility of competing with cheap imported frozen juice or concentrate, has forced Mr Caccaviello to take drastic action.
He is chainsawing the valencia trees to about 1m, running a mulcher over the fallen branches between the rows - rather than burning them - and will push out the stumps before winding up the drip line.
Some of the trees still bear this year's fruit - which he couldn't afford to pick - as well as next season's fruitlets and flowers for the season after that.
Mr Caccaviello's mother, Josie, can't bear to look at what's left of the trees that she and her late husband Leonard planted in 1978.
''It's very sad for me to see them go,'' she said.
But farming is a much tougher business now.
Mr Caccaviello said his parents were among the first in Australia to sell fresh lane navel oranges in the early 1970s. They received $30-$35 a box for first-grade fruit.
That fruit now sells for $6-$12 box, but the price of inputs such as fertiliser, fuel, electricity and wages has skyrocketed in the past 30 years.
''They're a beautiful tree,'' he said.
''They produce fantastic fruit and we're exporting at the moment but we're only getting $5 a box.''
Mr Caccaviello stopped picking the valencias at the end of October when he was offered $70 a tonne for the juicing fruit, which would have cost him $68/t to harvest and $35/t to truck it to Mildura.
The price of navels for juice was $40/t.
''Why would we even contemplate that side of the market,'' he said.
''At the moment, it's so cheap to bring in concentrate, but the crazy part is we've exported containers of fresh oranges to India to be juiced over there because they will not import concentrate.''
About 500t of valencias were left to fall on the ground, while any juice grade navel oranges were donated to a local dairy farmer for cattle feed.
''Last year was an absolute disaster and this year just followed - we've had two of the worst years on record,'' he said.
''I think a lot of growers at Mildura will pull out of citrus this year.''
Mr Caccaviello and his wife, Kerry, also have 48ha of winegrapes and 80ha of stonefruit.