ONE of Queensland’s biggest orchards has returned to the hands of a local family, who have now secured a multi- million-dollar deal to lease the citrus trees to Gayndah Packers.
The Mullett family had owned the 1214ha Monduran Citrus orchard for five generations and, after selling the majority of it in 2008 to Sydney-based fruit merchants Moraitis, they reclaimed their piece of family history yesterday.
Jim Mullett, farm manager and spokesman for what is now known as Monduran Orchards, said the sale to Moraitis was triggered after the farm had gone through a less than fruitful period.
“At the time, Monduran was the third biggest orchard in Queensland,” he said.
“It was my desire from the day of the sale to buy it back – now we’ve purchased it back on our terms.”
Although he remained tight-lipped on the sale price, Mr Mullett said the orchard had been repurchased for a “very acceptable price”.
“It appears it wasn’t as profitable as expected,” he said.
After patiently “waiting in the wings” until the opportunity arose, the farm was repurchased and Mr Mullett’s 26-year-old son, Alastair, is the sole shareholder and director of the company.
“It’s the biggest thing he’s ever done in his life,” Mr Mullett said.
A 10-year lease with two additional five-year options was signed with Gayndah Packers Co-operative Association, which will lease the fruit trees and pack and market the citrus products of murcott mandarins, lemons, limes and grapefruit.
Gayndah Packers general manager Barry Scott said the partnership with Monduran Orchards was a “significant event” for the industry.
“It’s one of the biggest things that has happened in 10 years for Gayndah Packers,” he said.
“This alliance will make Gayndah Packers a significant player in the lemon market, which we’ve never been before.”
Mr Mullett said the farm’s former owners had retrenched all their staff, but Monduran Orchards had rehired about 70% of the workers.
“Once work starts to come on as it gets hotter, of course we’ll have to look for additional workers,” he said.
The priority now for Mr Mullett, wife Anne, and three children Alastair, Rachel and Harry, will be getting the fruit orchard “back into shape”.
“Now we start to rebuild the place and bring it back to its former glory,” Mr Mullett said.
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