Florida citrus hopes for 2024 rebound

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Florida citrus hopes for 2024 rebound

The Florida citrus industry has battled continued difficulties in recent years. The ever-present citrus greening disease, numerous hurricanes, and a freeze dropped last year’s production to historic levels.

According to the latest Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Citrus Statistics report, released in March, the 2022-23 season saw a 60% production drop year-on-year. Crop value also experienced a 61% decrease, from a projected $501 million to $194 million in 2022-23.

However, Florida Citrus Mutual President and CEO Matthew Joyner told FreshFruitPortal.com that the sector is eager to move on from these challenges.

“We are up several million boxes this year and encouraged by what we're seeing from some of the new therapies that have been developed through research to help production,” he explained regarding citrus greening struggles.

Related articles: Florida citrus sector urges signing of greening research funds

Fighting the changing estimates

The 2023-24 Florida all-orange forecast released on April 11 by the USDA’s Agricultural Statistics Board put orange production at 18.8 million boxes. If realized, this will be a 19% increase over last season’s revised production.

When asked about said projections, Joyner said, “they've [the USDA] started to revise that down some, as we've seen this crop not be quite as robust as we'd hoped, but we're still up from the all orange crop of about 15 and a half million boxes last season.”

As for quality, the executive shared that they are seeing more fruit drop than anticipated in Valencia oranges, with trees “having a hard time” holding on to the fruit.

The Valencia variety is one of the late cultivars grown in the Sunshine State and is usually in season from March through May.

“Dry weather and some pretty heavy wind events over the last few weeks are playing into that drop situation,” he added.

As for exports, about 90% of oranges produced in Florida go to processing plants to be turned into one of the state’s most popular byproducts: orange juice.

“We do have some of that orange segment that goes into fresh fruit. Most of it stays domestic, except for grapefruit,” he said. “Our Indian River grapefruit in particular is world-renowned, and there's high demand for that.” 

The Florida citrus industry is eagerly awaiting approval of a $47 million budget to advance research and provide further support to the state’s signature crop. 

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