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Trade war posturing a worry for outgoing Costa boss Harry Debney

Costa Group is more than an exporter to China, with extensive berry operations in the world’s most populous nation, producing blueberries, raspberries and blackberries for the Chinese market.

“I have got to say on the ground in China we’re very strongly engaged with the local government and the regional government of Yunnan, who value our contribution very highly,” he said.

The 72-year-old said the company had been in China for 5 years and in Morocco for 11 years, adding that “these things take a while to build…they’re not an overnight sensation”.

“But what I’ve got to say is, the foundations we’ve laid there are really significant,” he said.

Costa’s AGM on Friday has drawn the curtain on a turbulent 2019 for the business.

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Costa issued a series of profit warnings last year, it was hit by devastating drought, a genetic issue that damaged raspberry crops and hail storms that damaged citrus crops. In October it announced a $176 million capital raising, and over summer one of its blueberry farms suffered bushfire damage.

Mr Debney said he’d never experienced such a period of turbulence in his lengthy career in horticulture.

“I’ve seen lots of cycles, but collectively, what we’ve had thrown at us over the last 12 months has been the biggest I’ve ever seen.”

Mr Debney said he would have plenty to do after he retired, given his currents roles as a non-executive director of Kogan, and chairman of the small agtech company The Yield.

Costa shares closed the session on Friday 2.4 per cent weaker at $3.22.

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