CITRUS DEVELOPMENT: 60 jobs and infrastructure secured
UP TO 60 regional jobs and an increase in agricultural infrastructure will be made possible for a North Burnett citrus company thanks to a State Government Grant.
Mundubbera's Ironbark Citrus has been granted a Rural Economic Development (RED) grant after an increased interest in a variety of mandarin from international markets.
Directors Susan and Allen Jenkin expect demand for the Royal Honey Murcott to increase to 5,500 tones in the next four years, a demand they say has warranted investment in new infrastructure capable of processing the fruit, and will support up to 60 regional jobs.
The Royal Honey Murcott mandarin variety has a low acid taste profile which has been recognised by the Asian export market, commanding a premium price.
This grant will allow Ironbark Citrus to establish a regional horticulture export hub in the North Burnett, including processing, marketing, container loading and transport services for local produce through a packing line and blemish sorter.
"This new facility will allow for fruit to be processed in a timely fashion and within market windows when there is no competition from cheaper citrus offerings," Mrs Jenkin said.
"The blemish sorter will provide state of the art consistent grading of the citrus increasing the quality and consistency of the citrus offering.
"This new facility will allow for fruit to be processed in a timely fashion and within market windows when there is no competition from cheaper citrus offerings."
The new facility will support 10 jobs during construction and 20 once up and running, plus another 30 indirect positions.
"These jobs allow for fruit to be prepared for export in the local area, rather than being shipped elsewhere to be processed," she said.
"The fruit can be picked on farm, packed on farm, cooled on farm, loaded into export containers on farm, and transported directly to port.
"This keeps the jobs in the local area, rather than fruit being shipped closer to port for processing."
The orchard area spans over three farms in the North Burnett, comprising of more than 75,000 producing mandarin trees.
"This facility will be able to provide extra processing capacity for citrus outside the Royal Honey mandarin window."
Mrs Jenkin said citrus was a major industry in the North Burnett and benefited from strong community and local government support.
"It is a major employer of local people," she said.
"Any expansion in this industry has flow on effects throughout the community, through increased employment opportunities and consequent increased demand for goods and services, housing, increased requirements for horticultural inputs and increased requirements for transport services."
The Rural Economic Development Grants program offers emerging projects up to $250,000 in contributions to build industry and grow employment opportunities across the agricultural sector.