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Florida citrus crops drop

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A drop in Florida citrus crops could raise citrus prices, which would affect growers and consumers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the 2013 Florida citrus crops will drop at least 5 percent. For Florida, the main producer of citrus in the nation, this could pose a problem. But Thomas Spreen, University of Florida Professor Emeritus of Food and Resource Economics, said consumers don’t have to worry yet.

The crop forecast, which was released in October, predicted 156 million boxes of fruit, Spreen said. Although the number sounds high, it is less fruit than in the past.

The drop in citrus crops could be related to a disease known as Citrus Greening. Greening is when the trees tend to drop the fruit more quickly, Spreen said, and it is now more widespread within the state.

Other factors that could have attributed to the fruit dropping too soon are citrus canker and Florida’s  recent winter being very warm and dry, Spreen said.

UF, the USDA and citrus growers have been investing time and money to come up with various solutions to fight Greening. Spreen said UF has a “very aggressive” research program, which has proposed solutions that range from a disease-resistant, genetically modified tree, to killing the insects that spread disease and an antibiotic solution for the trees that would kill bacteria.

While this drop would cause consumers to pay more for citrus crops, growers would actually benefit from a smaller crop because prices rise in response.

Spreen doesn’t think prices will rise from what they have been.

“We might have seen somewhat of a price decline had a larger crop been produced,” he said.

Rebekah Geier wrote this story online.

About Ethan Magoc

Ethan is a news editor at WUFT News. He's a Pennsylvania native who found a home reporting Florida's stories. Reach him by emailing emagoc@wuft.org or calling 352-294-1525.

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