Ned Hancock, a citrus grower and Florida citrus commissioner, shares thoughts about HLB, including the lack of consumer awareness of the disease and how growers are coping.
At the Florida Citrus Commission meeting on January 18, the Florida Department of Citrus staff reported that only 1 percent of American consumers are aware of HLB. Hancock says he would have been surprised by that a few months ago. “But I had the opportunity with the department to go to Boston to a dietitian/food conference, and it was amazing to me that the only people there that knew anything about citrus greening (HLB) were the people from the Department of Citrus. We all get involved in it on a daily basis and it’s what consumes us. But for the most part, the American consumer has no idea about HLB – citrus greening – or any other pest or problems that we face.”
Hancock discusses growers’ ability to cope with HLB. “I’m not going to say we’re winning the war, but I think we’re winning a few battles,” he says. “No other part of the world has ever tried to survive with greening, and I think that’s what we’re learning how to do. It’s not a pleasant process, it’s not an easy process, and you’d rather have the alternative to where we have the cure. But at the same time, I think a lot of growers are learning that you may not thrive, but you can survive if you do all the things necessary, and you spend your money very wisely. I don’t know that we’re working necessarily a lot harder, but we’re sure having to work a lot smarter.
“I feel like we’re turning a little bit of a corner and learning how to do certain practices, how to implement certain strategies that are going to allow us to survive.” Hancock acknowledges that “it’s very expensive to survive … We’re just trying to do whatever we can to implement strategies that make it cost effective and allow us to stay in business and keep going one more year.”
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