Citrus Harvesting

Citrus harvesting - a man hand-picking mandarins in a citrus orchard

Australia has many things going for it as a country, not least the diverse climate and huge range of soils and growing conditions. One upside is that there is always some type of orange or lime in season and that citrus harvesting happens all year round. So whilst you will struggle to find a locally grown navel orange in January, you can at least make do with a Valencia instead.

As the world continues to deal with the effects of Covid and large parts of Australia emerge from extended lockdowns, the importance of our fruit growing industry – including our citrus harvesting – has been front and centre of our news. Fruit picking is one of the great seasonal jobs and has provided employment for students, backpackers and migrant workers for decades. The problems of closed borders – both on a state and territory and national level – has caused a shortage of workers for citrus harvesting.

Citrus is grown in so many differing regions of Australia. Riverland in South Australia and the Riverina in New South Wales with their Mediterranean-style climates are famous for their produce, but they are far from alone. Queensland grows tonnes of citrus each year, in particular mandarin varieties, and the Murray Valley in northern Victoria churns out thousands upon thousands of navel oranges. Western Australia and the Northern Territory also have citrus orchards that need picking. All this makes citrus harvesting a great job if you want to travel and work at the same time.

Plan it right and you can follow for harvest from Queensland in March all over the country.

It is interesting that though there are now machines that can ‘pick’ fruit, hand picking is still the preferred way of harvesting citrus for many farmers. Sometimes, technology just can’t compete with the advantages of the age-old methods and twisting off a tangelo by hand is still the best option!

If you’re interested in seeing the guidelines for citrus harvesting issued by the NSW Department of Primary Industries, then please see here.

Citrus Harvesting – What’s in Season?

Although there are times of year when citrus fruit, like most others, are ‘at their best’, many can still be found in grocers across Australia outside their peak growing periods.

From a consumers perspective, beauty of living in such a huge country with so many different climates is that if one type of orange is out of season, another may just be approaching its peak. There is never a time of year when citrus is in short supply. It is simply the type of fruit on the shelves that varies.

Here are the seasons for some of the most popular citrus fruits on the market.

Grapefruits

Domestically produced grapefruits of one variety or another are in the shops all year round, though they are harder to come by for a few weeks in January.

Lemons

Lemons are in season from February through to October, but are at their most prolific in June, July and August.

Limes

In contrast, limes slacken off from June to August and fruit from September to May. Great news for a summer mojito!

Mandarins

For many of us, the appearance of the first mandies in the greengrocers signals the approach for winter. Though varieties of mandarin are available fromMarch through to October, the colder months of May to September as when they are best.

Harvesting Citrus - a man picking oranges in a citrus orchard

Navel Oranges

Sweet, juicy and seedless, navel oranges are a real crowd-pleaser. They are at the prime from June through to October, though their season extends a month longer on either side.

Valencia Oranges

In perfect partnership with their cousins, the navel orange, the Valencia is a summer fruit which starts to ripen in September and dies off around April.

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