Climate Change, Conservation, Environmental Hazards, FDA

Florida Citrus Crops Succumb to Greening Disease

florida-oranges
Florida oranges and other citrus fruits have fallen victim to citrus greening disease after back-to-back hurricanes.
Image: Shutterstock

The Florida orange crop has decreased by 4 million boxes to 110 million boxes, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s monthly forecast for 2013-2014.

“We continue to feel the effects of citrus greening disease in groves across Florida,” said Michael W. Sparks, executive vice president and CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual. “The silver lining is that the tight supply will put upward pressure on grower returns. However, that is not sustainable in the long term. That’s why finding a solution to this disease is so important.”

Florida has had back-to-back powerful hurricanes, which have been devastating to several of its crops. The same citrus greening bacterial disease that is taking down oranges has also badly damaged grapefruits across the state. Nearly a decade ago, Florida produced 41 million boxes of grapefruit; this year it expects to produce only 16 million.

Back in March, Michael Sparks said in a press release, “Everybody in the industry understands fruit drop has been an issue this season with our earlier varieties, so it’s somewhat encouraging we lost less than 1 percent off the estimate this month. Maybe we’ve found some stability as we move into our Valencia harvest. Despite the challenges we face, Florida growers continue to produce the best citrus products in the world,” he said.

The Florida citrus industry creates a $9 billion annual economic impact, employing nearly 76,000 people and covering about 550,000 acres. Currently finding a cure for greening is the highest priority for grapefruit growers and orange growers alike in Florida.

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