The Georgia Department of Agriculture is working to promote the ever-growing Georgia citrus industry. Matthew Kulinski, deputy director of marketing for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, led a presentation at the Georgia Citrus Association Conference to inform growers that the department’s marketing division can help them.
As the Georgia citrus industry expands, it is important for growers to know how they are going to make money after harvest. Kulinski wanted to make growers aware of the types of programs the marketing division has to offer. “We really wanted to encourage them to work together with us to put together their marketing plan for Georgia Grown citrus,” Kulinski said.
Kulinski believes there is interest from Georgia citrus growers to work with the Georgia Department of Agriculture. He said the first step toward creating a commercial industry is to create a citrus commission, as well as create guidelines for the industry to follow. The guidelines should be created to answer questions such as: What are the correct grades? What does Georgia citrus look like? What are the fruit sizes, and how big is a box?
“Without those rules in place, it can become very difficult to sell to a retailer because the retailer may reject the box of citrus because the box is too small, they do not meet a size standard, or they’re not packaged in a way that the retailer wants,” Kulinski said. He added that in order to avoid those difficulties, the industry needs to come together to set standards.
Although the Georgia citrus industry is growing quickly, it is not ready to begin a large retail sales effort. So right now, Kulinski said the marketing division is giving growers information on local markets. “We’re directing them toward how to set up on-farm markets, how to sell at farmers markets and getting them connected to some of those direct-to-consumer sales options,” he said.
Kulinski believes that the Georgia citrus industry has a real shot at commercial markets in the future. However, before the industry can take that step, it needs more regulatory infrastructure in place in order to sell to larger retailers. “Once you start selling to institutional buyers and retailers, the game changes quite a bit,” he concluded.
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