(April 27) Australia’s agricultural sector could face a water crisis in 2008, but supplies of high-quality citrus will be plenteous this summer, said an official from the country’s exclusive U.S. import partner.

The Australian prime minister, John Howard, said in a statement April 19 that, given the country’s current drought, it was unlikely water would be available for irrigation in the country’s Murray-Darling Basin from August 2007 to May 2008.

The area could get irrigation water during that period, however, if there is substantial rainfall in the next month, Howard said.

Based on what he’s heard, Stu Monaghan, Australia citrus manager for DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, Fla., the exclusive marketer of Australian citrus in the U.S., said that’s a distinct possibility.

“The forecast is for above-average rainfall this winter in Australia, so the growers are optimistic,” he said.

But regardless of how much rain Australia gets in the next month, there has been and will continue to be plenty of irrigation water for the 2007 crop, Monaghan said. DNE expects its first shipment of citrus from Australia to arrive in the U.S. the last week in July.

“This year’s crop is up 30% over last year’s, and it looks extremely clean with fruit size up on all varieties — navels, minneolas and mandarins,” Monaghan said.