For citrus to sustain as the Sunshine State’s signature crop, more plants need to go in the ground. To that end, Peace River Citrus Products and Scott Family Companies and its partners are planning to invest more than $25 million to plant a quarter million new grapefruit trees on 1,500 acres in Florida’s St. Lucie and Indian River counties. The announcement marks the first major grapefruit planting in the state since citrus greening started to decimate Florida’s existing grapefruit groves — well more than a decade.
A little more than 4.5 million boxes of grapefruit were harvested in Florida last season, a far fall from the peak of 49.5 million boxes during the 1997-1998 campaign.
“Peace River and the Scott Family Companies aim to boost Florida’s grapefruit crop by 15% once the new groves reach maturity,” said Andy Taylor, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Peace River Citrus Products.
The Coca-Cola Company also is supporting the new grapefruit initiative with a multi-year agreement to purchase processed grapefruit juice for its global juice brands.
“Coca-Cola has been and remains committed to using Florida citrus in our growing portfolio of products,” stated Mark Westfall, Chief Procurement Officer for The Coca-Cola Company. “We have a longstanding commitment to the Florida citrus industry with ongoing partnerships to address citrus greening and a $2 billion commitment announced in 2013 to support the planting of 25,000 new acres of orange groves in Florida.”
In addition, Japan-based flavor and fragrance giant Takasago International Corp. is investing $1.5 million in the new tree plantings. Takasago is underwriting the cost of every new tree planted through this partnership to ensure a sustainable grapefruit industry in Florida. Takasago also has entered into a multi-year agreement for the supply of grapefruit peel oil, which is a key ingredient in flavor and fragrance manufacturing.
Dan Richey, President and CEO of Riverfront Packing Company, summed up the new endeavor by pointing out the team effort it takes to tackle citrus greening. “Scott Family Companies is proud to partner with Peace River to not only plant 1,500 acres of grapefruit trees in Florida but to also ensure these trees are protected from devastating diseases.”