Florida Citrus Packers

Grower: Last Season Had Ups, Downs

Ernie Neff Grapefruit, lemons

George Hamner

Vero Beach grower George Hamner reported having better production and size on his fresh market grapefruit and lemon crops in the 2020-21 season than in the prior year.

He said grapefruit prices remained steady, similar to the prior year. “Lemons, however, were not as good as previous years because of the loss of food-service business … due to COVID-19,” he added. Food-service business includes restaurants and bars that were hit hard by the pandemic.

Hamner reported having large, clean fruit early in the season, but said rust mite and what he calls “greasy green” damage reduced fresh packouts later in the year. He said he fights rust mite throughout the year. The so-called greasy green looks and feels like greasy spot, “but the timing seems to be later in the year,” he said. “Fortunately, as an industry, we have our scientific gurus looking into the problem.”

The Indian River-area grower had planted some acreage in the Citrus Research and Field Trial (CRAFT) program, using dark red grapefruit varieties on various rootstocks. “But due to shifts in our company’s future, I have transferred our acreage to another large affiliated grower and they will be following through on this test,” Hamner said. CRAFT subsidizes participating growers who plant new trees that will be used to evaluate different HLB management strategies.

“I have high hopes for the coming season,” Hamner stated. “First, with what seems to be our getting a handle on the pandemic, food service should be recovering, giving an important boost to our sales. Retail sales have remained strong, so with the addition of food-service volume, I believe we should have a good sales year. Second, we anticipate increased demand for Florida grapefruit domestically since Texas will be recovering from a severe freeze earlier in the year. The downside is higher costs for all packing supplies and higher shipping costs, but overall I remain optimistic on sales and grower returns.”

Read about Hamner’s history in the citrus industry.

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large

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