by Eliza Goetze
INNOVATION and collaboration are driving massive growth in Queensland's citrus industry - and there's no better place to grow the juicy fruit than our region.
Exports jumped in value by 30% last year to $67 million across the state, and Bundaberg, Gayndah and Mundubbera lead the way.
At Wallaville farm Abbotsleigh Citrus, recently taken over by produce giant Nutrano, managing partner Michael McMahon said 3500 tonnes of mandarins, lemons and oranges travelled through the packing shed last year.
Up to 200 employees work during the height of the season at Abbotsleigh.
The farm exports to places including China, Thailand, Indonesia and the Middle East and this year they hope to make inroads in the Philippines.
Mr McMahon said the export growth was thanks to a culture of teamwork, rather than competition, across the industry.
Bundaberg MP Leanne Donaldson said Trade and Investment Queensland and the Department of Agriculture had worked hard build relationships in foreign markets.
"I'm proud to say that the Bundaberg and Central Burnett regions are the biggest contributor of mandarins to Queensland's citrus output," she said, adding that the citrus success reflected the approach of the region's whole agriculture industry.
"Our farmers are not afraid to innovate."
Many farms have branched out into value adding. Abbotsleigh invests in "growing a high quality fresh product", Mr McMahon said, with only 2% of the crop not making it to supermarket shelves.
He said he was constantly experimenting with new varieties and one convenient new addition, the seedless lemon, was growing in popularity.
Fruit is specially grown for each market.
Yesterday the packing shed was in full swing with thousands of imperial mandarins, which are Aussie favourites, while murcotts are more popular with overseas consumers in places like China.
"Not everyone wants to eat (Murcotts) in Australia because there are a lot of seeds in them - but they taste great," Mr McMahon said.
"In China they don't care about the seeds, but they want very smooth, blemish-free skin."
Bundaberg has the "perfect climate" for growing all kinds of fruit, Mr McMahon said, as well as being a destination for holiday workers and foodie tourists alike, according to Ms Donaldson.
The seasonal data from Citrus Australia reflects a continued upward trend in citrus exports with ABS figures showing exports from Queensland in 2015-16 valued at $48.4 million, up 68% from $28.8 million the previous financial year.