Grower Frustration Mounting Over Millions of Uncommitted Boxes

Ernie NeffEconomics, Processing

Eddy, left, and Royce

Highlands County grower Jarred Eddy recently shared his frustration with the Florida Citrus Commission over his failure to receive any offers for the fruit from his 200-acre grove. Following Eddy’s Oct. 23 presentation, he and Highlands County Citrus Growers Association Executive Director Ray Royce discussed the problem.

Eddy says he expected offers several times since the middle of summer, but “as of today, I have not had an offer on my own personal fruit.” He says he has talked to a few potential buyers. “I have heard there’s somewhere, rough estimate, low end 10 million, the high end 15 million boxes, that are uncommitted right now in the state of Florida.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast is for 74 million boxes of Florida oranges this season.

“Imported juice is a big problem,” for growers with uncommitted fruit, Eddy says. “I don’t know if it is the main problem.” He explains that since Hurricane Irma curtailed Florida crops in September 2017, “the processors have brought in very high numbers of imported orange juice. I understand it, as of today, they continue to bring in high numbers of imported juice … It is a tough pill for me to swallow, being a Floridian, to think that my fruit may not get bought this year, but Mexican and Brazilian juice will come into the state and take the place of my fruit at the processing plant.”

“It is very discouraging for me … to look forward to the future for next year, the year after, the year after that,” the grower says. “It’s hard for me to be optimistic and stay positive.” He says, “if we could slow down importation of juice, I think that would help.”

Royce says, “I think Jarred’s obviously exactly right. The last two seasons we’ve seen historic levels of juice importation, and there were certainly reasons in particular after Hurricane Irma that that occurred.” He says the industry needs to slow the importation of juice “and have the utilization of Florida oranges be the first priority of the Florida citrus processing community.”

Royce adds that the heavy decline in per-capita consumption of orange juice is a primary contributor to the citrus industry’s problem. “We’ve lost 3 gallons per capita over the last 17 or 18 years and that’s what’s kind of got us in this fix, frankly,” he says.

Hear more from Eddy and Royce:

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Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large