Think about it: Just seven years ago, the Florida citrus industry produced 242 million boxes of oranges. This season, our industry will grow about 142 million boxes. That’s a 41% decrease in less than a decade. As most of us know, the vast majority of the decline was caused by weather, disease, and development.
Although U.S. OJ consumption has decreased steadily over the same period, we still need significant production. The U.S. is a net importer of OJ and as such Brazilian processors are filling the widening gap between what Florida growers can produce and what U.S. consumers drink.
Consequently, I’ve had many discussions with various industry experts (both economists and growers) and I believe now is the time to invest in Florida citrus. This would have been a curious statement a few years ago when HLB first appeared and scared the living daylights out of our industry. Believe me, HLB is still an insidious threat, but many growers now feel they have the tools to keep the psyllid at bay, especially through coordinated sprays. Plus, the industry is optimistic that nutritional therapies could save the trees we have in the ground until a long-term solution emerges through our multi-million dollar research effort.
Counting On Consumption
Despite the unknowns, it sure is nice to talk about investing in the future of our industry. The Florida citrus grower is resilient and we plan to be here for a long time.