PESTS, politics and difficult trading made 2012 a tough year for citrus growers, writes ALEX SAMPSON
There's no doubt last year was tough for the citrus industry.
The year started with the "biggest fruit fly hangover in history", according to Nationals Member for Mildura and former Sunraysia Citrus Growers chairman Peter Crisp.
"The high Aussie dollar meant the volumes of citrus that needed to be marketed were just amazing," he said.
Hundreds of tonnes of valencia oranges were dumped after a glut, due to imported concentrate.
Then the industry tried not to panic when the Victorian Government prepared to declare fruit fly endemic across the state, potentially killing much-needed export opportunities.
There were fruit fly outbreaks, along with citrus gall wasp expanding its reach, at the same time as key pesticides fenthion and dimethoate were banned by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.
Then in November, more than 400 containers of citrus were held up on docks in Jakarta, in Indonesia, due to new import permit requirements.
But most of all, the industry battled accusations of mis-management.
In October, citrus growers and industry representatives across South Australia, Victoria and NSW called for a Senate inquiry into the operations of peak industry body Citrus Australia.
Controversy over CA's funding allocation led to the representative body being accused of "building an empire" on levy and taxpayer money.
The industry claimed the peak industry body had been voting itself millions of dollars in project funds, with many of its Independent Advisory Committee board members also directors of CA.
A former chairman of the South Australian Citrus Industry Development Board, Richard Fewster, said the IAC set-up was not normal corporate governance and "beggared belief".
Horticulture Australia Ltd chief executive John Lloyd said the citrus industry was merely in a state of evolution.
"The IAC board now only has three representatives who are CA directors, which is a good thing because they are the industry peak body," Mr Lloyd said.
On top of this, the citrus industry was about to lose its access to export efficiency powers, which had been applied successfully to developing exports of Australian citrus to the profitable US market over the past two decades.
Citrus industry consultant Peter McFarlane said it was unfortunate CA had "rolled over" on the retention of these powers, which were "valued by the overwhelming majority of growers with family farms".
The year culminated with Tasmanian Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck calling for a Senate inquiry.
He said the industry was struggling on many fronts and something needed to be done.
Senator Colbeck said the inquiry would look at all areas of the citrus industry including governance, management and production. Despite all the challenges, growers are hanging in there. Just.
Citrus Australia chief executive Judith Damiani said despite last year being a bad year for oranges, there were better results for mandarin growers.
"Good quality lemons also did well," she said.
As a result, many long-term growers in South Australia, Victoria and NSW were changing their orchard mix to compensate.
"The resilience of Australia's citrus industry is absolutely amazing," Mr Crisp said.