Crusta juice plant back in Riverland hands

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By Melissa Keogh

The Crusta Fruit Juices site at Ramco in the Riverland is back in the hands of a local family who say the reacquisition of the facility is good news for local citrus growers.

Lochert Bros. Pty Ltd sold the plant to drinks giant Coca Cola Amatil in 2004, but has now “seized the opportunity” to buy it back for the “benefit of the Riverland and South Australia”.

The site is located opposite Lochert Bros.’ existing orange packing facility and is the only Riverland based processing plant able to hold large volumes of citrus for storage and distribution.

While the sale included the land, buildings and all juicing and storage facilities, it doesn’t include the Crusta brand name or company.

The former Crusta site adjacent to Lochert Bros.’ existing packing house at Ramco, near Waikerie.

The first batch of oranges are already rolling along the production line to be juiced for two juicing companies, one in SA and the other in NSW.

Lochert Bros.’ founding managing director Robert Lochert says the company has no plans to launch its own line of juice or bring back the Crusta name.

“But there has certainly been a lot of community support and people saying they would love to have Crusta juice back in the marketplace,” he says.

“But at this stage it’s not part of the plan, we can’t reinvent history.”

The company says in a statement on its Facebook page that demand for quality oranges will increase due to China’s acceptance of South Australia’s fruit fly free status.

“This will enable Lochert Bros. to pay higher prices for oranges exported to China in 2018,” the statement says.

“Lochert Bros. will be talking to growers about additional supplies of both navel and Valencia Oranges for 2018 and beyond.”

Robert says the feedback from the community has been positive and that the prosperity of local growers is of high importance to the company.

“It’s always been a part of our philosophy that we look after growers because if there are no oranges growing, then we don’t have a business,” he says.

Lochert Bros. staff Shawn Wood, left, Peter Kuchel, James Lochert, Lochert Bros. owner Robert Lochert, factory manager Timothy Lochert, and Mel Brisco.

Robert has been packing citrus since 1961, before the Crusta brand was established a decade later in 1971.

His father was also a Riverland citrus packer, starting out in the business in the early 1940s.

“We have always taken fruit from the Riverland, mostly from around Waikerie,” Robert says.

“Of the fruit that we pack, the majority is exported overseas … we have been involved in exports for 30-40 years.

“We supply markets in Singapore, Malaysia, The Philippines, China and Japan.”

Lochert Bros. Pty Ltd packs about 20,000 tonnes of fruit a year.

Three new staff have been employed at the Crusta site and Robert says additional work will be on offer to Lochert Bros.’ casual and part time workers.

“I hope to build the business up,” he says.

Watch below: the first oranges in close to a year enter the former Crusta juice factory. SOURCE: Lochert Bros. Facebook.

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