For most months during the 2020-21 Florida citrus season, oranges did not meet the federal minimum standard of 10.5 degrees Brix for not-from-concentrate orange juice (OJ). According to a slide shown during Florida Citrus Mutual’s recent annual meeting, the average Brix level for oranges during the season was 10.45. Brix is a measure of the sugar content of juice.
Consequently, Mutual, the statewide grower association, will lead an effort to have the federal Food and Drug Administration temporarily suspend enforcement of the minimum Brix level.
The low Brix levels were not the only concern during the past citrus season. Mutual CEO Mike Sparks reported there were increased imports of Mexican OJ in 2020-21. He said Mutual will continue to monitor those imports and other trade issues “for any improprieties.”
Sparks also had good things to report about the season. He said U.S. Department of Agriculture purchases of OJ totaled $132 million, and that U.S. OJ sales skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said there have been improvements to the federal H-2A program which allows the use of seasonal temporary workers. The vast majority of Florida citrus is harvested by H-2A workers.
Sparks noted that “this industry had another great, great year in Tallahassee.” He reiterated the news that the Florida Legislature appropriated more than $32 million for a variety of citrus programs in Florida.
One of the programs funded by the Legislature is the Citrus Research and Field Trial (CRAFT) program. CRAFT Executive Director Kristen Carlson reported that the program has funded 106 projects in 15 Florida counties. CRAFT offers growers financial incentives to plant new trees that will be produced using specific HLB mitigation strategies. “The most important measure of success (in the CRAFT program) will be the fruit production reported by the grower,” Carlson said.
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