Citrus grower Chip Henry of McGuire Groves in Apopka reports that some small citrus growers in Florida are currently unable to sell their Valencias. Although Henry’s 12 acres of Valencias are ready to be picked — with a high Brix level and good pound solids — he has no market for his fruit.
Henry is not the only grower currently experiencing this problem. He says he knows of at least a half a dozen other small citrus growers, representing a total of 200 to 250 acres, who can’t sell their Valencias. These growers are located in St. Cloud, Christmas, Mims and Scottsmoor. “This is several trailer loads of fruit. One grower alone has 5,000 boxes that can’t be sold,” Henry says.
Henry normally sells his juice oranges to P.H. Freeman & Sons, a citrus buyer that books contracts with Florida processors. However, Henry says his buyer and Florida Citrus Mutual told him that Florida’s processors are not currently accepting uncontracted Valencias because they are well stocked from purchasing a two-year supply of Valencias from Mexico after Hurricane Irma in 2017.
Henry’s buyer has told him for the last month and a half to “check back in two weeks” to see if the processors need any Valencias. In the meantime, Henry fears that if his fruit isn’t picked soon, it will hit the ground. What’s more, he’s worried about how the harvesting company he uses is going to stay in business when his and other growers’ fruit can’t be picked until it is sold.
“These delays are killing the small growers,” says Henry. “This is a massive problem for growers not under contract.”
According to Henry, growers who can sell their Valencias are getting “horrible prices,” less than $2.00 per pound solids. He says he did not have any issues selling his early-season varieties, for which he received $2.30 per pound solids.