MAI Commentary on Australian Citrus Farmland Investments

October 15, 2020

BY Alexander Kalis

The Australian citrus season is well under way, with a strong outlook despite the uncertainty and disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The dry conditions experienced during the growing season have led to the production of sweeter, juicier fruit (than last year) with a low level of blemish and good sizing which, combined with a favourable exchange rate, is producing a strong market for fruit.

Whilst volumes to China have been down on the previous year (by 50%), other export markets such as Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, United Arab Emirates and Indonesia have increased trade, which has kept the total volume of fruit export at levels comparable to 2019 and seen pricing firm to similar levels (as last year). Covid-19 disruptions have included restrictions in accessing seasonal workers and additional export protocols for the China market, with the country now requiring a Letter of Guarantee that imported foods and products comply with China’s food laws and regulations from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In relation to table grape plantings the vines are currently dormant, and activities are confined to pruning and maintenance. The price of water (both permanent entitlement and temporary allocation) has softened significantly as a result of widespread rain across major catchments. Temporary allocation is currently trading at between AUD 350-400 ML (down from the high of circa AUD 1,000 ML) and permanent entitlements are trading at circa AUD 6,000 ML (down from AUD 10,000 ML) on expectations that entitlement holders will receive a greater proportion of their water this season. As a result of these factors, competition for quality horticultural assets remains strong, with prices for established plantings reflective of demand.