The Florida Citrus Commission continues to discuss the current season budget and grower tax rates for the Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC). Commission Chairman Ellis Hunt said Wednesday there is “a good possibility” the commission will set the budget and tax rates at a Nov. 20 meeting. In normal years, the budget and tax rates are set by the end of October.
This is far from a normal year, however, as growers are struggling to be profitable in the face of HLB and other issues. In recent years, high prices for juice oranges have allowed some growers to be profitable even with production that has been greatly curtailed by HLB. High prices paid for juice oranges are not expected to continue. In fact, numerous growers report they are receiving no offers for their current juice orange crops. Juice oranges make up the vast majority of Florida’s total citrus crop. Additionally, the greatly curtailed production, coupled with high grove costs required to produce fruit in the face of HLB, has left many growers with no profits or even losses.
Another major problem for growers and the rest of the industry is continually declining sales of orange juice. While some acknowledge that additional promotion by the FDOC might increase orange juice sales, others argue that growers can’t afford to increase any costs, including FDOC taxes.
The FDOC’s annual Florida Citrus Outlook, released and discussed Wednesday, highlights some of the problems. Although the largest Florida citrus crop in years is expected this season, the outlook indicates that crop is likely to generate less revenue than was generated last season.
“Overall on-tree revenues are projected to decline as the Florida citrus industry continues to face the challenges associated with a decline in distribution (sales) and increased availability from other sources,” the outlook states. Those “other sources” include increased imports of orange juice. “Total fresh and processed on-tree revenue for oranges, grapefruit and specialty citrus is projected at $733.1 million in (the) 2019–20 season, a decline of 15 percent compared to the preliminary estimate from the 2018–19 season,” the outlook states.
The outlook projects average delivered-in prices for juice oranges in the 2019–20 season of $1.62 per pound solids for early/mid-season varieties and $1.78 per pound solids for Valencias. Those prices are considerably below the prices growers received last season.
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