February 26, 2024

Building on the courage of its convictions

When life gives you lemons… why not use the opportunity to build up an entire citrus-growing region? Here’s how Moora Group did just that.

The Moora Group isn’t afraid to take a step into the unknown. Two decades ago, the integrated fruit business was the first to break ground on citrus in Western Australia’s Moora region, making a major investment in a new horticultural precinct.

Since those early days, the company has established a major packing facility and pioneered West Australian orange exports to Asian markets. In Bindoon, which hosts the packing operation, other local producers have come to rely on the facility for everything from citrus to pomegranates to stone fruit.

“We do the whole process,” group CEO Shane Kay says. “We pack it out, run quality assurance programs; we do export inspections, cooling, loading on-site. Then it goes straight to Fremantle Port and off to various countries.”

And it’s through that leadership that the agricultural land 170km north of Perth, once known as an overwhelmingly broadacre wheat and sheep region, now boasts a burgeoning horticultural industry.

“Other growers can export without needing their own infrastructure,” Shane says.

Being ready to jump on opportunity, alongside long-term planning, is crucial to success, he adds.

When an aquifer was discovered in the region in the early 1990s, Moora Group was the first to realise that all the conditions were right for citrus – and the first with the confidence to act on it.

“The climate is perfect for citrus in the Moora area,” Shane says. “It has very high hours of sunlight – that gives good sugar – and the soil is right.”

Growth over time allowed the company to consolidate existing lines of business and expand into new ones.

“When we first started, we were outsourcing all our cooling and shipping and inspections,” Shane says. “Building the packing shed was a major milestone; now we’re able to do it all in-house. There’s huge efficiencies and quality consistency, and we’re getting better and better at it.”

While the financial outlay to establish the plant was significant, Moora Group was able to access asset finance to import French machinery for state-of-the-art packing lines. A move to NAB was instrumental in refinancing the original asset finance and, later, a NAB green equipment finance funded the installation of solar panels.

The yield of the orange trees continues to grow for years, so Moora can plan its packing capacity for increased tonnages off maturing trees even without new plantings.

That means there’s opportunity to look for further depth in existing export markets, as well as breaking new ones.

“The domestic market is very important to us,” Shane explains. “But export absorbs the volumes that can’t fit into the local market.”

Export can be a rewarding game, even if it does take time and effort.

“The best thing I ever did was get on a plane, go to those markets, and have a look at the fruit they’re selling; have a look at what your competitors are doing and what they’re offering,” Shane says.

“Then you come home and understand exactly what they’re looking for and you can work on that.”

NAB Rural Commodities Wrap: May 2024

NAB Rural Commodities Wrap: May 2024

27 May 2024

The NAB Rural Commodities Index increased by 3.2% month-on-month in April, after slipping 5.7% month-on-month in March.The index is around levels seen in April 2023.

NAB Rural Commodities Wrap: May 2024