Northern Australia’s largest citrus grower has sold for more than $220 million.

Key points:

  • Costa Group has entered into a deal to purchase 2PH Farms for more than $220 million
  • The deal will help Costa Group break into the Chinese market, extend its citrus season and access new mandarin varieties
  • The labour shortage is an ongoing concern in the industry but Costa Group is confident it has a sufficient workforce

Australian fresh produce heavyweight Costa Group has entered into an agreement to acquire 2PH Farms, based in central Queensland.

Costa Group citrus general manager Elliot Jones said the deal was the result of a long-standing relationship between the two entities.

“We’ve had a long relationship with [owners] Craig and Bindi Pressler managing their domestic marketing program,” he said.

“It’s been well known by them that we’ve had ambition, should they be willing to sell the property and the operation, that we would be an interested buyer.

Opportunity for expansion into Chinese market

Mr Jones said the acquisition would allow Costa Group to expand its export operations into the Chinese market.

“We’re primarily an export-focused company with some very strong domestic programs,” he said.

“It provides access into what is 2PH’s core market of China, whereas Costa has been primarily focused on Japan and some other export markets with minimal exposure to China.

While there are existing concerns about the continued accessibility of the Chinese market, with other major commodities such as beef and barley previously being locked out, Mr Jones says he is confident that the fruit industry will have continued passage into China.

“We can’t presume to know exactly what’s going to happen, but, at the moment, we have confidence that fruit is arriving into China now and it’s moving through the system relatively uninterrupted,” he said.

“We have confidence that the Chinese market and the consumers have high demand for 2PH-branded mandarins and we’d hope that the market continues to be open so that we can continue to capitalise into that.”

Seasonal extension and new varieties also at heart of trade deal

The acquisition of 2PH Farms will also allow Costa Group to extend its citrus season, as its existing operations are based in southern Australia.

“The 2PH business is complementary to our business, from a timing point of view, being in Queensland versus in the Southern production region with its earlier season,” Mr Jones said.

The deal will also allow give Costa Group proprietary rights to two mandarin varieties currently owned by 2PH Farms; Amorette and Phoenix.

“We can look to extend their season by producing in the south,” Mr Jones said.

Labour shortages still a concern for citrus industry

Aside from uncertain trade relations with China, the agricultural industry has also been plagued by labour shortages resulting from a decreased international workforce due to COVID-19.

Mr Jones says this situation is something they will continue to monitor within the citrus industry.

Picking navel oranges

Labour shortages are having ongoing impacts across the agriculture sector, including on the citrus industry.(

ABC Rural: Laurissa Smith

)

“It’s been a very challenging situation over the last 18 months,” he said.

“Both 2PH and Costa are approved employers in the Seasonal Worker Program with Pacific Islander workers that come into Australia and both businesses have had quarantine facilities either on-site or in our local region in the case of South Australia.

“We feel that for both operations in 2PH in Emerald and also in our operations in SA and Victoria, we have adequate labour for this season and for going into the summer for the table grape and the pruning activities, and alike into next season for citrus.

“For the moment we’re feeling a little bit more comfortable.”

Northern Australia’s biggest citrus grower sells for $220m
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