Marketing North Florida Citrus

Ernie NeffMarketing

North Florida
Satsuma mandarins are cold-hardy and commonly grown in North Florida.

North Florida growers have planted several citrus groves in recent years. “A lot of those groves are starting to become productive,” Kevin Athearn said during a Sept. 23 Cold Hardy Citrus Association annual meeting, held virtually. Athearn, a regional specialized Extension agent, familiarized new citrus growers with some citrus terminology and suggested possible marketing strategies.

“It’s important that we all understand standard size units for citrus,” said Athearn. He told the North Florida growers that Florida citrus is sold by the field box, which weighs approximately 95 pounds for tangerines, 90 pounds for oranges and 85 pounds for grapefruit. He said fruit packed at a packinghouse goes into four-fifth bushel cartons, and that a carton is half of a field box.

Athearn said that “citrus juice consumption per capita has fallen quite a bit over the past decade or so.” But he also offered the good news that total fresh citrus consumption per capita has been rising for the past decade. That increased consumption has been driven by demand for tangelos, tangerines, mandarins, lemons and limes, he said. A Florida Department of Citrus economist expects the demand for fresh Florida citrus to continue to increase; learn more here.

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At the same time demand for fresh citrus has been increasing, Florida fresh citrus production has been declining, Athearn said. He added that California and foreign countries have been supplying much of the fruit consumers want, especially tangerines and mandarins.

Athearn added that Florida is the top market for Florida-grown fresh citrus, followed by New York, Illinois, New Jersey and Georgia, in order.  

“Marketing is really key to profitability,” Athearn said. He suggested that growers differentiate and brand their fruit.

Options for growers to market their fruit include selling to packinghouses, selling through a broker, and using a wholesale distributor. Athearn said there are two packinghouses in North Florida: Cherokee Satsuma in Marianna and Florida Georgia Citrus in Monticello. Packinghouses in South Georgia include The Satsuma Company in Tifton and Ken Corbett Farms in Lake Park.

According to Athearn, other marketing options for small growers include farmers markets, roadside stands, u-pick operations and gift fruit.

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About the Author
Ernie Neff

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large

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