Keith Connors

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Florida citrus gets squeezed, taking a big hit. Florida’s citrus industry is experiencing a decline in orange production as the storm-battered season comes to an end. Mainly in Polk, Desoto, Highlands, and Hendry counties. The latest forecast from the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts that Florida growers will fill only 15.65 million boxes of oranges this season, the lowest since 1934-35. The decline can be attributed to various factors, including the impact of Hurricane Ian, the battle against citrus greening disease, and development pressures. However, industry leaders remain optimistic about the future, thanks to new treatment methods, government support, and increased funding for research and protection. TBT

Will Florida Citrus Get Squeezed Out:

  • A Difficult Season

    This season has been tough for the citrus industry in Florida. The previous season already saw a significant decline with 41.2 million boxes of oranges produced. However, this season’s forecast is historically low. Hurricane Ian and the ongoing battle against citrus greening disease have taken a toll on Florida’s signature crop. The pressures of urban development have further exacerbated the industry’s challenges.

  • Government Support and Optimism

    Despite the difficulties, Florida Citrus Mutual CEO Matt Joyner remains optimistic about the industry’s comeback. New treatment methods have shown promise, and the Florida Legislature has provided substantial support with funding for greening research, replanting assistance, and hurricane relief. A proposed budget increase of approximately $65 million for the citrus industry, if approved, will contribute to citrus protection, research, and marketing efforts.

  • Struggling Grapefruit Industry

    Grapefruit production estimates for this season offer a slight boost, but it remains significantly lower compared to previous years. The projected 1.8 million boxes are a notable decrease from the 3.33 million boxes produced in the 2021-22 season. The declining grapefruit production adds to the challenges faced by the citrus industry.

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  • Specialty Crops and Overall Impact

    The forecast for specialty crops, such as tangerines and mandarins, remains steady at 500,000 boxes. However, this figure is significantly lower compared to the 750,000 boxes filled in the previous season. Overall, combining the box count for all citrus varieties, this season’s production is expected to be the lowest since the 1929-30 season, which faced severe hurricanes and a Mediterranean fruit-fly invasion.

  • Road to Recovery and Future Outlook

    The industry’s focus has shifted to preparing for the next season, with major citrus grower Alico Inc. emphasizing the need to rebuild groves and restore production levels. A recovery period of up to two seasons or longer is expected following the impact of Hurricane Ian. Despite the uncertainties surrounding federal storm assistance, the citrus industry remains hopeful for future recovery. New treatment methods, increased government support, and funding for research and protection provide a glimmer of hope for the industry’s resurgence.