THE citrus industry has hit an unprecedented flashpoint with acres of citrus trees being ripped out of the ground because it's cheaper to destroy them than to produce fruit.
Beelbangera grower Fred Bianchini said he was in the process of ripping out 10 acres of navels because he can't get more than $100 per tonne for the fruit.
"Between the fertiliser and sprays to produce quality fruit, it costs $280 a tonne to produce navels," he said.
"I pulled most of them out without even picking the fruit - it costs us $80 a tonne just to pick them."
Mr Bianchini is at least one of four citrus growers pulling out trees in Beelbangera alone, while others have abandoned their farms completely.
"Trees have been pulled out in the past but not to the extent of this time," he said.
"Our overdrafts just keep going up and we just can't compete with fresh fruit and juices coming in from overseas."
The 10 acres will now be replanted with Valencias but it will be at least four years before Mr Bianchini can start harvesting the crop.
But between the high Australian dollar and fruit from other countries flooding the domestic market, Mr Bianchini said even Valencias were hard to make a living out of.
"Valencias on contract will get about $250 a tonne depending on the sugar levels but it's still hard to get a return," he said.
"We've got costs of production, high wages compared to countries like South Africa, the dollar isn't helping us at all at the moment and the big chain stores are bringing in fruit from overseas."
Fellow Beelbangera grower Nick Salvestro has also pulled out the majority of his navel crop and said until the market improves there was no point replanting with Valencias.
"It's not worth putting anything in for anything less than a return of 40 cents a kilo," he said.
"I'm not going to be putting anything in there for at least a year until I see what the market is doing."
Mr Bianchini, who has been growing citrus for the past 30 years, said he still held out hope the market would bounce back but if it didn't improve next year he'd start ripping out his remaining 40 acres of navel oranges.
"It's a cycle, you get some good years and some bad but the bad years have been lingering around too long this time," he said.
"If the government would do something to stop the produce coming in from overseas it would help.
"I know it's meant to be free trade but it's destroying the industry - we need to consume our own first before we let the other countries dump fruit into our market."