Georgia’s citrus crop was harvested before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, so the state’s small but growing citrus industry has thus far avoided impacts from the disease.
“We don’t think marketing will be affected by COVID, but harvesting (next season) could become problematic if our harvest crews experience problems,” said Lindy Savelle, president of the Georgia Citrus Association. “Although we did have some positive test results for COVID‐19 in our farm workforces, most employees were asymptomatic and were quarantined. Our growers/farmers are implementing protocols and taking extra precautions to protect their employees. I serve as a director on the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association board and we continue to share information and conduct listening sessions/discussions for our growers to help share best practices and problem solve.”
Savelle thinks there might actually be a silver lining to the COVID-19 cloud. “If anything, juice sales may soar as it appears more and more consumers are realizing the benefits of vitamin C in their orange juice,” she said. Indeed, the Florida Department of Citrus has been reporting recently on the surge in orange juice sales.
“We are full bore ahead on plantings throughout the state,” Savelle added. “We are beginning to see growers diversify and plant varieties such as grapefruit, navels, shiranui, Tango, seedless kishu and some others. This will help lengthen the harvest season and add variety to what Georgia can provide. We have two large commercial packing sheds coming on line this fall, so this will provide a place for small and large growers to sell their product.”
The varieties Savelle referred to will come on top of approximately 2,000 acres of existing Georgia citrus that is 85 percent satsuma mandarin. Georgia citrus is grown in 41 counties and consists of more than 130 growers. See a recent update on Georgia citrus production.
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