Navel growers urged to step up for industry's future
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.