Florida Citrus Mutual Executive Vice President/CEO Mike Sparks weighs in on the recent Florida citrus crop forecast and explains why Mutual currently opposes a Florida Department of Citrus tax increase.
“I have mixed emotions on the crop estimate,” Sparks says. “The 74 million boxes (of oranges) is good news. It shows that the industry’s starting to recover.” On the other hand, he notes that there are already large inventories of orange juice. “So the key here is, how can the brands, how can the Florida Department of Citrus, the growers; how can we work together to increase consumption?” he asks. “We’ve got to get rid of the large inventories, and we’ve got to get back on our feet.” So, he says, this will be a “challenging year with 74 million boxes of oranges.”
Sparks addresses discussions about the Florida Department of Citrus raising grower taxes for this 2019-20 citrus season so it can increase marketing efforts. “The Florida Department of Citrus continues to have workshops to address that very issue and the market strategy,” Sparks says. “It is a most difficult challenge. The fact of the matter is large inventories are made up from imported orange juice. And for the (Florida) grower to have to increase the tax to move imported product, that just doesn’t pass the smell test … At this time, until we understand the program and the financial commitments, Florida Citrus Mutual’s on record not to increase the advertising assessment.”
Before the early October forecast, several Florida citrus growers reported they had received no offers for their fruit this season because of the existing large juice inventories. The large inventories exist primarily because Florida processors bought much imported juice following Hurricane Irma’s destruction of the Florida crop in September 2017.
Hear more from Sparks in his interview with Citrus Industry magazine Editor Tacy Callies:
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