How a Processor Is Coping with HLB

Ernie NeffHLB Management

Bob Behr

Everyone in the citrus business knows HLB has wreaked havoc on Florida citrus growers. But it has also caused severe problems for processors, said Bob Behr, CEO of Florida’s Natural Growers (FNG). FNG is one of the nation’s largest processors and marketers of orange juice.

Behr told the audience at the recent Florida Citrus Industry Annual Conference that low citrus production caused by HLB forces processors to operate inefficiently at low capacity. The low production environment is “likely to exist for some time,” he said.

Processors need fruit volume to increase to be more efficient, Behr said. FNG is offering its grower members incentives to plant trees, as are other processors and government entities. The FNG incentive program began in 2014 with a target of 1 million orange and grapefruit trees and a $10 million investment. Due to strong interest, the program was later expanded by another $1 million, and then again by an additional $10 million in 2017.

FNG also approved a Lemon Planting Incentive Program in 2017. That initiative targeted 50,000 trees or 100,000 boxes.

To increase income in the face of orange shortages and reduced orange juice sales, FNG is selling teas and lemonade. “They fill production voids” and increase FNG grower member returns, Behr said.

“It may not be today; it may not be tomorrow, but HLB will be beaten,” Behr concluded.

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large