Navel grow­ers urged to step up for in­dus­try's fu­ture

The Orchardist - - Contents - By Mur­ray Robert­son

This is ac­cord­ing to for­mer chair­man of the orange and tan­gelo group of the NZ Cit­rus Grow­ers, David In­goe. Now, speak­ing as an in­di­vid­ual grower and not on be­half of NZCGI, he is pes­simistic about the fu­ture of the navel orange un­less grow­ers fronted up and took con­trol. He says the price sit­u­a­tion for navel or­anges must be changed to pro­vide a bet­ter fu­ture for grow­ers.

The Gis­borne grower says navel orange pro­duc­tion in New Zealand hangs in the bal­ance while the cur­rent pric­ing struc­ture “cuts the throat” of the navel in­dus­try.

“The cur­rent do­mes­tic mar­ket sit­u­a­tion, dom­i­nated as it is by the su­per­mar­kets, will cut the throat of the navel orange com­po­nent of the cit­rus in­dus­try un­less change hap­pens.

“The price struc­ture must change to make it more vi­able to grow them.”

David says the man­darins and the le­mons are okay but there are some ma­jor prob­lems in the orange group.

David points to a pos­si­ble re­turn to a grow­ers' co-oper­a­tive in Gis­borne for the mar­ket­ing of navels.

“The Poverty Bay grow­ers first set up a co-oper­a­tive for their or­anges in the early 2000s, but the big boys picked us off after two-and-a-half years.

It’s time grow­ers of navel or­anges stepped up and took more re­spon­si­bil­ity for the fu­ture of their in­dus­try, and a co-oper­a­tive struc­ture may save the fruit. “The price we are achiev­ing at the mo­ment for navels is just not sus­tain­able and grow­ers are achiev­ing re­sults that are far be­low the cost of pro­duc­tion.”

“There is talk about it be­ing re­vived be­cause of the way things are.

“It may be the so­lu­tion to the price struc­ture grow­ers have to live with, and from that point of view may be the saviour of the navel.

He also be­lieves grow­ers “con­tin­u­ously shoot our­selves in the foot by har­vest­ing sour tast­ing fruit early in the sea­son and not pro­duc­ing top qual­ity navels.”

“Gis­borne navel or­anges have the best taste in the world.

“But un­for­tu­nately with the over­sup­ply prob­lems and un­prof­itabil­ity for the grower, it makes the fu­ture of navel grow­ing in New Zealand un­cer­tain.”

The weekly con­sump­tion by New Zealand for navel or­anges is about 600 tonnes and grow­ers have been pack­ing more than 1000 tonnes.

“As well as this, there have been im­ports, hence over­sup­ply equals very low re­turns to the grower.

“Un­less grow­ers are pre­pared to pull out the older va­ri­eties, I see no im­prove­ment in the sit­u­a­tion.

“We are plan­ning to re­move four blocks of or­anges from our or­chards this year.”

David says the navel must be worth more to grow­ers for it to sur­vive.

“The price we are achiev­ing at the mo­ment for navels is just not sus­tain­able and grow­ers are achiev­ing re­sults that are far be­low the cost of pro­duc­tion. “Grow­ers are go­ing to pull out navels be­cause of it, and there are al­ready one or two grow­ers around the coun­try who have done that.”

“The sim­ple fact of the mat­ter is we don't re­alise any­where near enough re­turn. Who would plant or­anges as a choice to­day?

“So where does that leave the fu­ture of the navel in New Zealand?”

“With­out some sort of change to the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion I be­lieve the navel's days are num­bered.

“When I first started plant­ing or­chards, at the time cit­rus grow­ing seemed a ‘safer bet' than grapes or ap­ples.

“But while man­darins and le­mons re­main prof­itable fruit to grow, the times have changed for navel or­anges.”

This prob­lem is not con­fined to New Zealand, but the grow­ers here need to step up and take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their in­dus­try, David says.

David says he was “conned” into his first role with NZCGI in the l990s, served on the man­darin ex­ec­u­tive, then the le­mon group, be­fore trans­fer­ring to the orange and tan­gelo group.

Gis­borne is the back­bone of navel orange pro­duc­tion in this coun­try.

“The navel in­dus­try is almost en­tirely Gis­borne based.

“If the New Zealand crop is 9000 tonnes, I would think 7000 of it comes from Gis­borne, with maybe 1,000 tonnes from North­land, and the rest of it from Hawke's Bay and the Bay of Plenty.”

David has handed over the reins of his op­er­a­tion to son Glen, who fin­ished a suc­cess­ful ca­reer in the New Zealand po­lice.

“Glen runs 90 acres of or­chards on the Poverty Bay Flats, pri­mar­ily in the Pilmer Road area at Makauri.

“He's got man­darins and Yen Ben le­mons on the majority of it, and the rest is navel or­anges, at this stage.

“But, given the ex­ist­ing navel mar­ket sit­u­a­tion, that may change,” Mr In­goe Se­nior says.

Un­less grow­ers step up now the days of the navel orange in New Zealand could be num­bered, says long-time grower David In­goe.

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