Phil Rucks of Phillip Rucks Citrus Nursery weighs in on the increasing demand for late versus early orange varieties, the impact of Hurricane Irma and HLB.
Rucks notes that over the past 30 years, the demand for early-season oranges versus late-season oranges has essentially reversed. In the past, he says, early varieties accounted for about 60 percent of plantings. Now, late varieties account for 60 to 65 percent of plantings.
“That makes the season shorter, so the result of that is our labor pool is going to be lessened at the early season,” Rucks says. That shortened season will impact harvesting, processing and packing of citrus. “It’s going to disrupt our labor stream,” he says.
Rucks says Hurricane Irma, which hit the Florida citrus industry hard in September, was a huge setback. Before Irma, he says, growers would have had their best production in seven or eight years. But as a result of Irma, production declined again this season. “It was really a dramatic setback we had,” he says. “It kind of took the wind out of our sails. But we’re a resilient industry and we’ve always had a tendency to come back.”
Rucks adds that he thinks the industry will recover from HLB “sooner than later,” possibly within five years. “We’ve got some good new varieties that are more tolerant and even resistant to HLB,” he says.
Rucks was summarizing comments he made during a panel discussion at the International Citrus Business Conference this spring. Hear more from Rucks:
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