Justin Sorrells of Sorrells Citrus comments on the first U.S. Department of Agriculture citrus crop forecast of the season and the future of the Florida citrus industry.
“I think the numbers (forecast) were interesting — higher than I suspected … Maybe that means our state wasn’t impacted quite as heavily as we thought it was going to be,” Sorrells says. “Maybe that means we’re going to pick more fruit than we initially anticipated. So I was pleasantly surprised. But I think it’s hard to fully estimate that until we start picking.”
Sorrells says his groves (located in DeSoto, Hardee, Manatee and Polk counties) had spotty damage from Hurricane Irma. “We had fruit loss like everyone else,” he says. “But I’m happy the way that our company came through this storm.”
He says Sorrells Citrus will reset this year, just like always. “We’ll just have a few extra blocks to go through and pull out some of the older trees that the storm blew over for us,” he says. “We’re in the business and plan to stay in the business, and to do that you have to replant.”
Sorrells says he thinks growers’ response to the hurricane will make the citrus industry stronger. “I think we will replant some of these older blocks and have a younger tree stock, so that if we are faced with another storm” the younger trees will fare better … “So I think over the next five years, you’re going to see the industry get stronger rather than weaker.”
Hurricane Irma damaged virtually all groves to some extent, especially in the form of fruit knocked to the ground, during its Sept. 10–11 run through Florida.
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