THE local citrus industry is furious over a drastic increase in federal government charges that threaten to cripple the Griffith export market.
Packing houses last month received notice from the department of agriculture, fisheries and forestry advising fees and charges imposed to packing sheds had skyrocketed.
Among other fees, the new annual charge for registered establishments under tier three, protocol markets, increased from $550 per annum to $8530.
Lake Wyangan grower Vito Mancini, who owns his own packing house, said the charges were severely detrimental to small and medium exporters and had forced him to reconsider his anticipated foray into the export market.
Mr Mancini, who established a new blood orange farm specifically for export, said there was no way he could recoup the new charges other than adding an extra $100 per tonne to the sell price, which could ward off potential buyers.
"If we don't get opportunities to sell our produce overseas, we're basically done for," Mr Mancini said.
"The government needs to look over the decision its made and come to an arrangement that would allow Australia to continue to supply the world with the best quality citrus."
The fee structure changes were imposed following recommendations from the Beale report in an effort to recoup government costs without increasing taxes.
But local exporters say they have no choice but to pass the extra cost on to growers or buyers a concern which was raised during a recent meeting with member for Riverina Michael McCormack.
As a result, both Mr Mancini and Mr McCormack wrote impassioned letters to federal minister for agriculture, fisheries and forestry Joe Ludwig urging him to reconsider.
"I am told this fee is for a registered inspector to give a shed the 'all clear' and in some instances, depending on previous standards met etc, this can take as little as 30 minutes to an hour which, considering one of the new fees is as high as $8530, seems rather exorbitant if not downright outrageous," Mr McCormack said in his letter.
"Furthermore, many citrus growers are being forced to dump their fruit at record levels as the increase in cheap imports and the high Australian dollar allows juice companies to offer as low as $25 a tonne for navel oranges, and the fruit is selling for $4 a box in the cities."
Bart Brighenti from Sumar Produce said the new fee system was "just ridiculous".
Mr Brighenti said the cost could be absorbed by bigger exporters, but small companies would suffer.
"They (the government) have effectively negotiated small packing sheds out of existence," Mr Brighenti said.
"The costs will be forwarded onto growers and at the end of the day, the cost will have to be borne by the growers."