Florida Citrus Mutual CEO Matt Joyner: Citrus Growers Find Hope in Groves and Crop Forecast


Bartow – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued the December 2023 citrus crop forecast today for the 2023-2024 harvest season. The federal agency estimates production to be 20.5 million boxes of oranges this season. The forecast of oranges remains unchanged since the October 2023 estimate. Additionally, the USDA forecasted 2.4 million boxes of grapefruit and 550,000 boxes of tangerines and tangelos. 

“As we enter the months when freezing temperatures are most likely, we hope Saint Nick will generously fulfill Florida citrus growers’ Christmas wish for mild temperatures to shield their crop from harm,” said Matt Joyner, CEO at Florida Citrus Mutual. “While treatment methods being deployed to combat citrus greening are proving to be effective, this season’s citrus production is more likely to continue trending upward if citrus trees can come out of the winter months unscathed by freezing temperatures and continue to grow in the new year.” 

This month’s forecast reflects an increase since the July 2023 crop estimate, which included 18.1 million boxes of Florida citrus. It is an increase of 5.35 million more boxes of Florida citrus than the final crop forecast of the 2022-2023 season.

Florida’s 2023-2024 fiscal year began July 1, and with that came more than $65 million in funding from the Florida Legislature to support Florida citrus. This investment includes $38 million to support grower research and field trials.

On Tuesday, December 5, 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis announced The Focus on Florida’s Budget for State Fiscal Year 2024-25, which includes more than $20 million for citrus research and the Citrus Health Response Program, which is administered by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Funds will help researchers develop new varieties, increase the production of citrus and advance technologies that help treat and prevent citrus greening. Additionally, $10 million is included for research and advertising by the Florida Department of Citrus.

The Focus on Florida’s Future Budget also includes an annual appropriation of $100 million for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. This program aims to protect working agricultural operations from development by establishing conservation easements. By partnering with farmers, ranchers and growers, the state can protect these critical lands that contribute to Florida’s economy and support the production of food and fiber, while providing habitat for endangered wildlife and space to filter and replenish our aquifer.

Florida Citrus Mutual continues to advocate for recovery funding from Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. Congress allocated $3.7 billion dollars to assist producers impacted by natural disasters nationwide in 2022, but relief funds for recovery and replanting efforts have been slow to come.

According to UF|IFAS, Hurricane Ian’s path touched roughly 375,000 acres of citrus groves across the Sunshine State. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services estimates Hurricane Ian inflicted up to $675 million in damages to Florida’s citrus growers.

Prior to the hurricanes of 2022, Florida’s citrus groves were already struggling to combat Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening. Greening was introduced to Florida in 2005 by an invasive pest, the Asian citrus psyllid. Since 2005, citrus greening has spread to all commercial groves in Florida. Trees with greening decline in health over time, produce fewer, smaller fruits and ultimately die. As a result, Florida’s citrus industry has been decimated by citrus greening.

At its peak during the 1997-98 season, the citrus industry produced 244 million boxes of oranges. The USDA’s December forecast for the 2023-2024 season represents just 8.4% of the industry’s peak production. 

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