Orange Grower: ‘Best Year I’ve Ever Had’

Ernie NeffProduction

Kenny Sanders

Hardee County orange grower Kenny Sanders said at a grower roundtable meeting on June 25 that he produced 409 boxes per acre in the 2018–19 Florida citrus season.

“This is the best year financially I’ve ever had in the citrus business,” Sanders said at the Wauchula gathering hosted by Peace River Valley Citrus Growers Association. “In 2012, I picked 500 boxes an acre and had a good year, but this year is by far the best year I’ve ever had.”

The “fantastic” prices Sanders says he received made it his most profitable season. He reports returns of $2.90 per pound solids for Valencias and $2.70 for early oranges.

Sanders has cut some HLB-related production costs in recent years. “We’ve learned to cut back on a few things,” he says. “For a while, we were throwing the whole kitchen sink at it.”

Sanders says he now focuses on providing nutrition via fertigation “and a lot of trees per acre. That’s what we’re working on.” He reports fertigating once a week from late February to early December, applying two-thirds of total annual nutrients from March to June. He irrigates daily when the weather is dry.

The citrus industry has hurt itself by talking too much about its problems, Sanders believes. “We’ve just had, I think, a negative impact talking about greening and talking about our problems,” he says. He would prefer that the industry focus on its positive aspects and products. “We’ve got the best orange juice in the world — refreshing, delicious, nutritious Florida orange juice, and we need to put the word out,” he says. Sanders adds that he supports the Florida Department of Citrus’ focus on internet promotions to reach a young audience.

Sanders was not alone at the roundtable meeting in reporting good production in the just-completed citrus season. Another grower at the gathering reported producing an average of 350 to 360 boxes per acre, with some blocks producing more than 400 boxes per acre. Average production for all Florida citrus acreage has been less than 200 boxes per acre for several years in the face of HLB.

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About the Author
Ernie Neff

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large