Opportunity Awaits

Citrus Nursery Source: Opportunity Awaits

The key to the success of a citrus nursery: Sell what growers want to buy. Seemingly a simplistic business model, but as is true with many things, the devil is in the details — and the target is moving. The picture is a little more clear on processed varieties, but fresh varieties present a unique challenge. Space in nursery screenhouses is at a premium, and few nurseries will speculate on what growers might want. Nurseries wait for growers to request varieties and grow on contract. Growers don’t want to plant what packers and marketers aren’t requesting. What consumers are demanding today should have been anticipated and planted five years ago.

The simple answer is to get all parties on the same page. I know, I know, stop laughing. Since this is about as likely as a satisfied Gator football fan, let us consider the factors that affect variety demand by working our way up the decision tree.

The Ag Marketing Resource Center reported that, in order to affect demand of fresh produce, you need varieties that meet consumer needs and have new or novel characteristics. Following better varieties, demand can be affected by rising incomes (fresh costs more, and better fresh costs most), production expansion (so local supply can supplant import), population diversity (new tastes and preferences), recognition of lifestyle changes (need for convenience), and increased consumer awareness of the health benefits of consuming fresh fruit.

Comparing Apples To Oranges

No commodity group has been more successful at increasing demand for new varieties than the apple industry. Success factors for apple included: development and commercialization of better varieties (that drive demand, not just consumption); meeting the needs of traditional buyers while attracting new consumers; expansion of season (better storage); new flavors; and differing appearance.
 
Retailers are very clear about their perception of consumer needs when it comes to fresh citrus. Retailers want seedless, easy peel, good shelflife, good external color, year-round supply, sufficient flavor (to drive repeat purchases), and innovative packaging (to drive impulse). Clearly, packaging is outside the control of nurseries, but be aware of what retailers are looking for. Retailers impact packers. Packers influence growers.
 
A 2011 study published in the International Food and Agribusiness Review (conducted cooperatively by FDOC, UF/IFAS, and USDA-ARS) addressed consumer preferences in fresh citrus. According to this report, consumers (in order of importance) care about freshness, appearance, flavor, juiciness, size, price, peelability, and seed count.
 
Drive To Survive
So, we have an idea what the retail trade is looking for. We also have insight into what drives consumer purchases. The result of ignoring this information is clear. Twenty years ago, Florida had roughly 53,000 acres of fresh specialty fruit. Ten years ago, this dropped to approximately 27,000. Today, this number is 13,000 to 14,000 acres. Though freezes and disease pressure factor into the equation, changing demand factors have clearly had an impact. (This logic can be applied beyond specialty fruit).
 
Citrus is a perennial crop, and can’t turn on a dime like some berry or vegetable industries. Propagations take 10 to 12 months and trees require four to five years to produce a crop. Critical mass is necessary to establish retail demand. Nobody has the magic formula to solve this dilemma. However, in light of what we do know, consider this road map:
– Understand what consumers are looking for. Marketers and growers will select varieties that help meet this demand.
– Understand what retailers want or will accept. This may differ from consumers, but is no less significant.
– Work with your growers to make decisions based on anticipated demand. In the fresh arena, growers don’t want to be ordering trees when others already have reached critical mass and whose fruit is in the marketplace.
– Nurseries that want to be successful with fresh varieties must engage early and commit resources. There is risk here as not all varieties will make it commercially. Differentiate.
– Nurseries and packers/marketers are becoming more involved with their growers’ production practices. As advanced production systems are adopted in the field to accelerate cropping and minimize lag time to critical mass, rootstock variations and potting systems (for better development) at the nursery should be part of the overall system.
– As critical mass of new varieties grows near, the industry will support activities that increase trade and consumer awareness to drive demand and commitment of shelf space. Private marketing efforts will ultimately engage to sell these new varieties into the market with packaging innovations, merchandising, etc.
Early strategic involvement of citrus nurseries is critical to the success of the fresh and processed sectors. Times are changing. Get in gear.

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories
orange juice in a glass
Citrus
October 20, 2017
Is Your Orange Juice Glass Half Empty or Half Full?
There is strong-willed — some might even say stubborn — blood flowing through the veins of Florida growers. Read More
Events
October 20, 2017
Agriculture’s Big Data is Coming to You [Opinion]
It’s an opportunity to fine-tune your operation and maximize profits, but it also brings obligations. Read More
Blue Heron Nurseries greenhouses post-Irma
Varieties & Rootstocks
October 20, 2017
Taking Stock of Florida Citrus After the Storm
Extraordinary times call for industrywide cooperation and partnerships. Read More
Citrus stew courtesy of Irma
Citrus
October 19, 2017
Disaster Relief: Ways Florida Growers Can Find Farm Aid
With billions of dollars lost to Irma, financial assistance will be crucial for many. Read More
Fruits
October 19, 2017
New Online Tool Helps Growers Determine Need for Groundwater Recharge
California Land Use Viewer can help growers determine if they can adopt groundwater recharge practices on their own operations. Read More
subirrigation implementation
Irrigation
October 19, 2017
Northeast Florida Farmers Stepping up to Save Water
Green light given to nine agricultural projects steeped in stewardship. Read More
Vegetables
October 18, 2017
The 2018 State of the Vegetable Industry Survey Is Now Open!
How has this year performed for you? Share how things have gone this year – and your expectations for 2018 – in our shorter, more focused survey. Read More
Citrus
October 18, 2017
How to Keep Track of Climate Change
Use cool tools to find out how your production methods may change in the future, how much your area is at risk, and how to limit your own impact on the climate. Read More
Vegetables
October 18, 2017
Stop Viewing Fellow Growers as the Enemy [Opinion]
Instead, growers should focus on issues that benefit everyone, from gaining a stronger voice when negotiating with retailers, to finding a way to share ideas and costs on precision agriculture tools. Read More
Citrus
October 17, 2017
USDA Issues Disaster Declaration for Hurricane-Stricken Florida Farmers
Operators in designated counties eligible for emergency assistance. Read More
Fruits
October 17, 2017
Hirst Named American Society of Horticultural Science Fellow
Honor was presented during society’s annual meeting. Read More
Crop Protection
October 17, 2017
EPA Takes Steps to Reduce Risk of Drift-Related Herbicide Injury
With reports of dicamba injuries in tomatoes, peaches, grapes, and other crops, the agency works to reduce the impact of spray drift on vulnerable crops. Read More
Fruits
October 16, 2017
New Broad-Spectrum Herbicide Released by Nufarm
Grapple herbicide works on pre- and post-emergent weeds in orchards and vineyards. Read More
Flooded peach and grape groves from Irma at UF/IFAS HAEC
Citrus
October 16, 2017
Wrath of Hurricane Irma’s Rainfall Measured by the Trillions
Report says storm dropped enough gallons of water on Florida’s St. Johns River Water Management District to swamp 6.7 million football fields. Read More
Checking hop cones at UF/IFAS MREC
Fruits
October 14, 2017
USDA Seeks Applications for Next Round of Specialty Crop Research Grants
SCRI grants to total $48 million for 2018 fiscal year. Read More
The Latest
Citrus
October 20, 2017
Is Your Orange Juice Glass Half Empty or…
There is strong-willed — some might even say stubborn — blood flowing through the veins of Florida growers. Read More
Events
October 20, 2017
Agriculture’s Big Data is Coming t…
It’s an opportunity to fine-tune your operation and maximize profits, but it also brings obligations. Read More
Varieties & Rootstocks
October 20, 2017
Taking Stock of Florida Citrus After the…
Extraordinary times call for industrywide cooperation and partnerships. Read More
Citrus
October 19, 2017
Disaster Relief: Ways Florida Growers Ca…
With billions of dollars lost to Irma, financial assistance will be crucial for many. Read More
Fruits
October 19, 2017
New Online Tool Helps Growers Determine …
California Land Use Viewer can help growers determine if they can adopt groundwater recharge practices on their own operations. Read More
Irrigation
October 19, 2017
Northeast Florida Farmers Stepping up to…
Green light given to nine agricultural projects steeped in stewardship. Read More
Vegetables
October 18, 2017
The 2018 State of the Vegetable Industry…
How has this year performed for you? Share how things have gone this year – and your expectations for 2018 – in our shorter, more focused survey. Read More
Citrus
October 18, 2017
How to Keep Track of Climate Change
Use cool tools to find out how your production methods may change in the future, how much your area is at risk, and how to limit your own impact on the climate. Read More
Vegetables
October 18, 2017
Stop Viewing Fellow Growers as the Enemy…
Instead, growers should focus on issues that benefit everyone, from gaining a stronger voice when negotiating with retailers, to finding a way to share ideas and costs on precision agriculture tools. Read More
Citrus
October 17, 2017
USDA Issues Disaster Declaration for Hur…
Operators in designated counties eligible for emergency assistance. Read More
Fruits
October 17, 2017
Hirst Named American Society of Horticul…
Honor was presented during society’s annual meeting. Read More
Crop Protection
October 17, 2017
EPA Takes Steps to Reduce Risk of Drift-…
With reports of dicamba injuries in tomatoes, peaches, grapes, and other crops, the agency works to reduce the impact of spray drift on vulnerable crops. Read More
Fruits
October 16, 2017
New Broad-Spectrum Herbicide Released by…
Grapple herbicide works on pre- and post-emergent weeds in orchards and vineyards. Read More
Citrus
October 16, 2017
Wrath of Hurricane Irma’s Rainfall…
Report says storm dropped enough gallons of water on Florida’s St. Johns River Water Management District to swamp 6.7 million football fields. Read More
Fruits
October 14, 2017
USDA Seeks Applications for Next Round o…
SCRI grants to total $48 million for 2018 fiscal year. Read More
Grapes
October 13, 2017
Fairgrounds Host California Fire Evacuee…
Gallo will contribute $1 million to fire recovery effort and will match employee donations two-for-one. Read More
Citrus
October 12, 2017
Irma Rains Down on Florida Citrus Crop E…
Initial USDA forecast reflects the fruits of what was left behind by monster storm. Read More
Grapes
October 10, 2017
Wildfires Hit California Wine Country
California Gov. Jerry Brown declares state of emergency for northern counties impacted by flames. Read More