Hunt on Orange Production: Recovery Could Come Quickly

Ernie NeffCitrus Greening, Economics, Rootstocks

citrus could recover
citrus could recover

Ellis Hunt Jr.

Florida Citrus Commission Chairman Ellis Hunt Jr. reacts to projections Wednesday that Florida’s orange production will likely be near current levels or possibly much lower in 10 years. He says existing growers and/or institutional investors could replant trees lost to HLB fairly rapidly if they believe trees can survive and produce fruit in the face of HLB.

“I think we could see this turn around rapidly with a tolerant or completely resistant rootstock/tree,” Hunt says. “If there was complete confidence that HLB would not be an issue or we could just get back to typical agriculture, I think you could see replanting come back very rapidly. We’ve seen it before on red grapefruit years ago. We’ve seen it before after the 1989 freeze.”

“I think a lot of people are patiently waiting for some scientific breakthroughs or some tolerant trees, and we can come back pretty quickly,” the Lake Wales area grower and packer adds. “Hopefully we’re very close to the bottom and we’re ready to start turning the corner.”

Economists told the Citrus Commission Wednesday that the worst case scenario – with growers making no progress against HLB – would have Florida producing 27 million boxes of oranges in the 2026-27 season. That compares to 81.5 million boxes produced last season and 242 million boxes as recently as 2003-04. Other projections ranged from 77 million boxes to 85 million boxes of oranges in 10 years.

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Ernie Neff

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large