by RYAN MILEJCZAK
Sponsored by Farm Credit of Central Florida
Citrus is, without a doubt, Florida’s most emblematic crop. While citrus greening and other issues continue to squeeze the industry, the future is still looking hopeful for Florida’s best known crop. The Florida citrus industry continues to take these challenges head on, with some promising solutions potentially around the corner.
The State of the Citrus Industry for the 2022-2023 Crop Year
Due to citrus greening and damage from hurricanes, the downward trend in citrus acreage continues from last year. Total citrus acreage dropped from 375,302 acres last year to 332,256 acres this year. Hendry is the hardest hit county, down a full 11,073 acres from last year. Some counties are faring better than others however, like Polk, which is only down about 2,000 acres, Polk also continues to lead in citrus acreage with 60,131 acres, second only to DeSoto with 60,845 acres.
Statewide, citrus production is down 62%, going from 45,280,000 boxes produced for all citrus for the 2021-2022 crop year, down to 18,090,000 boxes for the 2022-2023 crop year. All citrus value for the 2022-2023 crop year is also down from $500,583,000 to $193,949,000, a drop of 61%. Oranges of all varieties account for the bulk of this drop, particularly non-valencia oranges which are down 66% in production, but other citrus such as grapefruit are affected as well.
Despite Challenges, Citrus Is Still a Major Contributor to the Florida Economy
While the citrus industry is facing challenges, the good news is that it remains a cornerstone of the Florida economy, generating significant income and jobs for our state.
The most recent report from University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences for the 2021-2022 crop year showed that the citrus industry contributed $6.9 billion to the state economy. The bulk of this value comes from citrus juice manufacturing, which generated $5.3 billion alone, with the rest generated by citrus fruit production and fresh citrus marketing. This makes it the largest economic contributor in the agriculture and manufacturing (juice production) sectors.
The citrus industry also provides significant jobs for the state, with a total of 32,542 full-time and part-time jobs for the 2021-2022 crop year. Labor income contributions through employees and business owners in the industry amounted to $1.6 billion for the same period. The industry also provides significant support to local communities, with a total of $151 million in local and state tax contributions.
Hope for Greening on the Horizon
Citrus greening continues to be the most pressing issue for Florida citrus growers. The disease first appeared in Florida in 2005, and has now infected virtually every commercial grove in the state. While greening is a major challenge to our citrus industry, there have been advances made on multiple research fronts in hopes of finding a solution. From oxytetracycline injections to ongoing efforts to develop greening-resistant varieties of citrus and early signs of hope stemming from the Millenium Block and Donaldson, there’s optimism brewing in the industry.