Opinion: Replanting Citrus Insane, Or Insanely Intelligent?

Opinion: Replanting Citrus Insane, Or Insanely Intelligent?

Paul RusnakSome contend the definition of “insanity” is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. For the Florida citrus growers out there seeking to replant acreage — especially amid the HLB crisis — many would say you have a certifiable case for committal. The uphill battle producers, packers, and other stakeholders have been enduring since greening’s arrival has and continues to take its toll. To their credit, many different mitigation methods and various stall tactics have been applied to stop the bleeding and hold on until a cure comes. Almost a decade in, and there is still no solution. Yet, there are plenty of growers still willing to do more planting than pushing.
Is this just bullheadedness? Desperation? Orange-colored pipe dreams? All of the above? Maybe for some, but definitely not for all.

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Confidence Stirred

Nearly a year ago, it was announced Coca-Cola — in partnership with Cutrale Citrus Juices and Peace River Citrus Products — was investing $2 billion in the state’s citrus industry via a 20-year agreement. The giant-sized ‘Coke and a smile’ looked past greening to greener pastures to the tune of what would be 5 million new citrus trees on 25,000 acres. Almost sounded too good to be true.
Today, the seeds of that promise are taking hold. Duda’s Citrus Division is one of the operations participating in the deal. Lucky for them, right? Yes and no. One major detail is none of the money is seen up front. Appears to be even more of a gamble than what I first thought. However, the company is all in. Duda’s grove manager Rob Atchley says some think they’re “crazy” for putting in so many acres of new trees at this time. But he’s not crazy. He’s confident, not only in being able to harvest a good crop, but also in the industry’s ability to push forward through likely its roughest patch. That’s great to hear. And even better, he’s not alone in his thinking.

Believe It Or Not

Late last summer, Florida Grower polled citrus growers about whether they were actively replanting (resets/blocks) citrus trees. Nearly 89% said that they were. Just recently, FNGLA’s Citrus Nursery Division fished for feedback from nursery owners about several different topics including rootstocks, inventory issues, and HLB challenges. Regarding tree orders, the statistics were telling. Half of respondents said they had increasing tree orders compared to the last couple years; 40% were even; and only 10% reported a decline. The results not only parallel with those of our informal poll, but also to how the industry is proceeding. Whether you see it as crazy for trying or just being insanely confident, much money is being poured in to buoy citrus — well beyond Coca-Cola’s bump. I couldn’t imagine all that time, effort, and cash going to a lost cause. That would just be nutty.