Squeezing the Greening out of Florida Citrus
Florida is known for its tourist attractions, beautiful beaches, and what many around the world consider a staple of their morning routine: citrus fruits. Oranges in particular have become synonymous with the Sunshine State, so much so that Florida’s license plate prominently features an orange in the center, and in a partnership with the state, Marvel Comics recently added a new character to its Avengers team in a special series of comics: Captain Citrus, who is powered by oranges and Florida’s sunshine.
The citrus industry, which includes fruit production, processing, juice extraction, and packaging, is of great importance to the Florida economy, as it employed more than 62,000 Floridians in FY2012-13, and was valued at $10.7 billion. Currently, Florida produces more citrus than any other state in the nation, accounting for 59 percent of the total U.S. citrus production, and has been the top producer for decades. Despite this success, Florida’s citrus production has declined significantly for two crop years in a row (38 percent), due in large part to several citrus diseases, including Citrus Greening and Citrus Canker. Data from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) show that Florida citrus trees are not as productive as they were a couple of years ago, and Florida’s four major citrus crops have experienced a decline in boxes of fruit per tree.
Recent federal projections show that 2014-15 grapefruit and tangerine production in Florida will experience a significant decline. In fact, Florida’s grapefruit growers will see the lowest production since the Great Depression in a growing season without a hurricane, continuing a downward trend in the industry generally, as in the 2013-2014 season alone, Florida’s share of national citrus production was down 21 percent from the previous season.