Mumble Peg's generational citrus business

Mumble Peg's generational citrus business

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Avo Fekaro, Harry Robertson and Niggle Porykali enjoying their morning sorting oranges for packing at the Roberts family's Mumble Peg orchard, Narromine.

Avo Fekaro, Harry Robertson and Niggle Porykali enjoying their morning sorting oranges for packing at the Roberts family's Mumble Peg orchard, Narromine.

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Orange groves have become fewer in the Macquarie Valley, but one family is still supplying the fresh fruit and the freshly squeezed juice markets.

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Orange orchardist numbers have dwindled considerably in the Macquarie Valley in recent decades from some of the biggest in the state to several more than a handful of growers who supply their oranges mainly for juicing.

Yet, yields have been reported to be very good, with quality fruit producing plenty of juice this season.

Most growers are supplying citrus to Grove Juices, Warwick, Queensland, however, one grower still supplying the fresh fruit market in the Roberts family of Mumble Peg orchard, Narromine.

Working on the sorting tray checking for blemishes at Mumble Peg orange orchard packinghouse is Harry Robertson, Narromine.

Working on the sorting tray checking for blemishes at Mumble Peg orange orchard packinghouse is Harry Robertson, Narromine.

General manager, Trevor Roberts Jnr, oversees the family's 40 hectare orchard growing some 250,000 trees yielding some 30 tonnes of fruit per hectare.

"The property was taken up by his great-great grandfather, Sam, in 1910 and citrus has been a part if the business base for generations.

"We are not big growers by any means, but big enough to have our own packing house and juice processing factory," Mr Roberts said.

"But we are looking to expand our production options in a 10-year program."

While the grove's trees are "very old", according to Mr Roberts, they are still producing upwards of 30t/ha of fruit, enough to supply the fresh fruit market as well as a weekly "squeeze" of fresh juice for the Mumble Peg freshly squeezed juice bottling market.

"While our trees are older, orchards with younger threes of 10 to 20 years growth are producing from 40 to 60 tonnes/ha and higher," Mr Roberts said.

Mumble Peg grows several varieties.

"We have multiple varieties including summer valencias, seedless valencias, early navels, mid-season navels and spring navels.

"Picking has just started on early navels at the moment after finishing Navelinas and will go on to Lengs, Washingtons, then late Lanes."

Fruit is graded by weight and after sorting is packed in 18 kilogram boxes for marketing.

"The ideal size for a pack is between 72 and 56 ranges," he said.

"You want a pieces weighing at 180 to 240 grams."

It's become a wet winter, all good, according to Mr Roberts who said the continual weekly falls for the past month and more would set the scene for a potentially good season to follow.

"Coming out of three years drought the rain is flushing all of the naughties accumulated through irrigation which contains some form of sodium," he said.

"So all the fresh rainwater is flushing the root systems, setting us up for another good crop next season."

Mumble Peg citrus is marketed as fresh fruit or juice.

"All of our navel winter varieties we market into NSW and Queensland, and we do export as well," Mr Roberts said.

"We provide to greengrocers, supermarkets, roadside sellers, plus we'll go into the big markets of Flemington and Rocklea (Qld) as well.

"We'll sell to someone who'll take one 18kg box a week to others who will take pallet-loads a week. It's all business.

"And our weekly squeezed juice is on the shelves at IGA and Coles supermarkets as well."

Talking about returns, Mr Roberts said prices were down from last year.

"This is due to less exporting to countries struggling with COVID, plus less sales from the lockdown of Greater Sydney, Central Coast to Wollongong, and the current labour shortage situation," he said.

"Supermarkets are still open but a lot of the smaller retailers, cafes and restaurants, are closed or limited. It all has a negative affect on rural growers too."

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