Hardee County, Florida, orange grower Kenny Sanders saw his orange production dip in the 2020-21 season compared to the prior year. However, he still made a good profit, thanks to strong fruit prices.
“I went down from 400 boxes an acre to 308 boxes, which I can live with, but it’s not as nice,” Sanders said. “We had a good fruit contract … makes a big difference. It runs out this year.” He received $2.70 per pound solids for his early-season oranges and $2.90 per pound solids for his late-season Valencia oranges. “That’s kind of hard to beat,” he added.
Sanders hosted a Peace River Valley Citrus Growers Association (PRVCGA) roundtable luncheon at his grove on May 4, National OJ Day. Sanders was one of several growers who responded to production questions posed by PRVCGA President Roy Petteway. The meeting was among the earliest gatherings of area growers since the COVID-19 pandemic prompted people to social distance beginning in early 2020.
When Petteway asked what issues other than HLB were a major problem for PRVCGA members, one grower in the audience of 40-plus said, “Costs.” In response, Sanders said his production cost was $1,750 an acre in 2020-21. That’s a little less than the industry average of $1,847 per acre reported in late 2019 by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences economist Ariel Singerman. Sanders added that his cost had been as high as $2,300 an acre when the industry first started coping with HLB, which was discovered in Florida in 2005.
Sanders said he saw more HLB-spreading Asian citrus psyllids and more symptoms of HLB in his groves this year than in the prior season. “So I’m going to work mainly on keeping the psyllids down,” he said. Among other psyllid control methods, he plans to try kaolin clay in the future.
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