Florida citrus growers are hit with a perfect storm that's rocking a lot of operations to their core. While many factors are contributing to it, about the only thing that will help is if the Legislature provides emergency funding for research to take on the effects of greening and other diseases.
In a story on Agri-Leader's front page today it's scary to see longtime citrus growers in such a bind. A combination of drought, oversupply, economic conditions and disease is hitting harder than some of them have ever seen. This is more than a bad freeze situation for them.
A lot of fruit is falling early, which means less harvested, according to grower Vic Story, who runs a 5,000-acre operation. That's a 20 to 30 percent decline.
On top of that, the oranges are smaller, meaning they have less juice. Since only Florida and Brazil grow oranges for juice, this a big problem.
For some growers, operating margins have plummeted 40-60 percent, Story said. It doesn't take an MBA to know that's not sustainable. Clearly the industry is in a tough position.
Contributing to the crisis is an overabundance of orange juice on the market. Economic stagnation has hurt the industry and now the supply side is too high. But although drought and demand are hurting, greening is hitting hard. Until recently local growers thought their harvest looked good, but that's changed a lot in a short period of time.
The only way citrus growers can deal with greening and other citrus diseases is for scientists to figure out how best to deal with them. Already growers pay a high cost fighting the disease and breakthroughs are needed.
We hope the Legislature takes this seriously and steps up with funding for this research. The payback will far exceed the expenditure in the long run.