Harsh weather impacts citrus industry

The Sunshine State isn’t living up to its name.

Though variable weather is customary for most farmers, southern citrus growers are feeling the effects of Mother Nature’s cold winter.

"This is peak harvest season for many Florida crops, so damage at this time could have significant consequences stretching far outside Florida's borders," said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson.

Cold weather actually helps sweeten citrus, but temperatures below 28 degrees can be damaging. As temperatures plummet throughout the state, farmers resorted to spraying their citrus with water to create a shield layer of ice for insulation.

According to Florida Citrus Mutual spokesman Andrew Meadows, the citrus industry has a $9 billion annual economic impact, so a limited citrus harvest could potentially threaten consumers’ and growers’ pocketbooks.

Fortunately, consumers don’t have to worry about the cost of citrus and/or citrus products (juices) increasing, according to a recent CNN article. Bob Norberg, deputy executive director at the Florida Department of Citrus, said that at least 20 percent of the state’s crop would have to be damaged to impact retail prices of citrus goods.

Like other crops, citrus can be sold at contract/futures pricing to safeguard against unreliable markets, so even if prices change, it won’t be reflected until later this year. Economists are not predicting a large increase at this time.

To ease the already stressful harvest conditions, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist declared a state of emergency that permitted him to issue a temporary hold on weight, height, length and width limits on trucks transporting crops.

Citrus Facts (Wikipedia)
  • The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is responsible for creating the seed of the majority of citrus grown in the U.S. – developing higher yielding, increased disease resistance, better color and longer shelf life varieties.
  • Florida is the nation’s top citrus producer (more than 75 percent of total U.S. yield).
  • Brazil is the world’s top citrus producer.
  • More than 90 percent of all Florida oranges are squeezed into orange juice.

In the coming days, citrus producers will frantically tend to their groves. Similar to the plight of our nation’s corn growers this past fall (harvested a record corn crop with extended heavy rainfall), farmers will do their best to save as much of the citrus harvest as possible while in the face of challenging conditions.

Let’s hope they are as successful.

Have you noticed a difference in the cost of citrus at your local grocery store or food market? Do you believe the government is doing all that it can to aid the country’s citrus growers? Will demand for other fruits increase if citrus supply is affected?

No comments: