Higher prices cushion lower production for Florida citrus growers

Higher prices cushion lower production for Florida citrus growers

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With higher prices offsetting reduced volume, 2016-17 Florida citrus returns were little different than the previous year, a new report says.

Called “Economic Contributions of the Florida Citrus Industry in 2016-17,” the report from economists with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Economic Impact Analysis Program is available at no cost online, according to a news release.

The report reflects economic activity from October 2016 through September 2017 but does not incorporate losses caused by Hurricane Irma, which struck Florida in September 2017, Christa Court, program assistant director and one of the report’s authors, said in the release.

Court authored the report with food and resource economics department colleagues Caleb Stair, Mohammad Rahmani and Alan Hodges, the program’s director.

Results

In the 2016-17 growing season, Florida’s citrus industry contributed $7.241 billion in sales revenue to the state’s economy and supported more than 50,000 jobs, according to the release. 

Florida’s growers received $1.182 billion for the fruit they sold, the so-called “farm-gate value.” 

The state’s total citrus fruit harvest during the 2016-17 season was 78.4 million boxes – the smallest harvest since 1944-45, Court said in the release.

“The bad news for growers in our report is that both production and yields continued to decline,” Court said in the release, stating that Florida citrus growers harvested 94.3 million boxes of fruit during the 2015-16 season. “The good news is that even though there were about 15 million fewer boxes harvested in 2016-17 compared with the year before, higher prices resulted in a small increase in sales revenues to growers.”

The release said the primary reason for the continued decline in Florida citrus production is the bacterial disease Huanglongbing, also known as HLB or citrus greening disease.

The disease, first noted in Florida in late 2005, has become widespread in the state’s commercial citrus production areas. Scientists have not yet developed a method for conferring resistance to trees or curing them of the disease, according to the release.