Citrus Exports Face Challenges

Ernie NeffExport

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Canker protocols in the European Union (EU) and difficulties transporting fruit to Asia are among problems hampering Florida’s fresh citrus exports, Dan Richey told participants during the recent virtual Packinghouse Day. Richey, of Riverfront Packing Company, is heavily involved in international trade issues on behalf of Florida’s citrus industry.

The canker protocols that the EU has imposed for accepting Florida fruit are not based on science, Richey said. “We have done everything to get that (the protocols) removed,” he said. While the protocols still create a problem for Florida exporters, some progress has been made with the EU on the issue over the years, he added.

Regarding fresh shipments to Asia, “It’s no secret we have transportation issues,” Richey said. He explained that there are now no direct shipments of fresh fruit from Florida to Asia, and that shipping time to the Far East has doubled from 30 days previously to 60 days now. Fresh fruit shippers will pay two or three times as much to ship to Asia as they did a few years ago, he said. He added that ports are congested in many places worldwide.

On the plus side, Richey reported that the EU has suspended for five years a 26.5% tariff on grapefruit. He also said Florida fresh fruit might fetch a premium price as a result of Texas’ supply of citrus being greatly reduced by a freeze early this year.

Richey pointed out that exports of Florida grapefruit are a fraction of their levels a few decades ago. That’s due primarily to a supply shortage; he noted that Florida grapefruit production has tumbled from 55 million boxes a few decades ago to just 4.1 million boxes last season.

Packinghouse Day was organized by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Professor Mark Ritenour and moderated by Florida Citrus Packers Executive Vice President Peter Chaires. The event was held Aug. 26.  

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Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large