Citrus Greening Causing Lower Supplies, Higher Pricing; Growers Respond
FLORIDA - It’s no secret that Florida citrus has not had the easiest of years. Florida growers are faced in particular with citrus greening, or HLB, a bacterial disease transferred by a pest called the “Asian citrus psyllid,” which can kill infected trees within two years time.
Just last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) lowered its estimate of the 2015-2016 Florida orange crop by almost 7 percent, or 5 million boxes. Estimates now come in closer to 69 million boxes for the upcoming season, according to Florida Citrus Mutual.
This has translated to tight markets across most citrus categories out of Florida, with higher pricing in response.
“On domestic (Florida) citrus, demand is outpacing supply with a short season projected and another huge decline in volume due to struggles with the citrus greening (HLB) disease,” Seald Sweet’s Florida Citrus Category Manager Dave Brocksmith tells me. “Supply estimates predict this will be Florida’s smallest crop dating to 1958. We expect pricing to continue upward for the remainder of the deal.”
The USDA also lowered their estimate of early-mid varieties, shaving off one million boxes for an estimate of 36 million boxes, and another four million boxes off the Valencia estimate, bringing that total to 33 million boxes.
Duda Farm Fresh Foods also corroborated the fact that supplies and production are down, but on the plus side, the grower expects the pending cooler temperatures to help both tree and fruit health for the near future.
“We knew this year’s crop was going to be the lowest in years but this is a bit surprising,” explained Michael W. Sparks, Executive VP/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual in a written statement. “The silver lining is that the lower crop should put upward pressure on grower returns which they need to cover ever-increasing production costs.”
The pressure is also on for Florida growers to figure out ways to get around HLB and keep supplies up for future seasons. From my conversations with Florida citrus industry members, I can glean that most are optimistic about what’s to come.
“HLB and Citrus Canker still exists in FL, but we have learned a lot about how to manage it through intense cultural practices and we have come a long way,” another grower told me. “In fact, we have done a lot of replanting of citrus trees in Florida and are very invested in the future of the FL citrus industry.”
The Florida citrus industry in total creates a $10.7 billion annual economic impact, according to Florida Citrus Mutual. For more on how this story will develop in the coming months, check back with AndNowUKnow.