THE new Grove Juice plant in Warwick, which will squeeze 50,000 tonnes of citrus fruits and apples a year at full production, has been officially opened this morning.
Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott did the honours, unveiling a brass plaque mounted on a sandstone block in front of a 200-strong crowd which included local business operators and supplying fruit growers from as far away as the Riverina.
Grove co-director and citrus producer Dick Estens blasted the Labor Government for its water policies, saying it had no grasp of the needs and aspirations of regional food producers, proclaiming that Mr Abbott would be the next prime minister and "hopefully soon".
Mr Abbott joked that plaque unveilings tended to range from plastic up to brass depending on much a politician was "loved", raising a laugh when he discovered the metallic nature of Grove's plaque.
After the unveiling, a relaxed Mr Abbott kissed and cuddled a baby and engaged in a quick bout of orange juggling with local Federal Member for Maranoa Bruce Scott.
Grove director Greg Willis runs the Warwick plant, the result of a $6 million investment and located in the new Axis Industrial Estate on Kenilworth St.
He quipped to the assembled throng that they would need to "be out" of the factory at 12.30pm on the dot as they had to resume juicing to meet an order in Brisbane tonight.
"We made the decision to come to Warwick for a number of reasons, one of which was our move into apple juice and the proximity to Stanthorpe," Mr Willis told the Daily News late last year, as juicing equipment was being moved in.
"There is also a transport operator, Dale Meredith, who has made a major commitment to ourselves and to Warwick and has bought a block of land right across the road.
"Once we reach full production, we'll be sending a B-double out of here every day with 32,000 litres of juice."
Grove's products include orange, mandarin, lemon, lime and grapefruit lines, as well as apple juice and they are able to source fruit from multiple growing regions to ensure a year-round supply.
Their strategy is based around keeping things natural, avoiding the traditional heat treatment of fruit juice used to aid in preservation.
Peel from the fruit will go into feedlot and dairy meal, rounding off the supply chain neatly.
The business is family-run, with son Tim - who at the age of the four was sticking Grove labels on his dad's bottles - having moved his young family to a property at Junabee.
The new factory will employ five, but Mr Willis hopes to relocate their bottling plant from Brisbane to a site next door to the new processing facility.
"That may be 12 or 18 months down the track, but we'd be looking at between 30 to 40 more jobs," he said in December.