Florida Orange Brix Levels Not So Sweet Yet

Jim Rogers Orange Juice, Processing

Florida citrus growers and orange juice processors are reporting low Brix levels as the 2021–2022 harvest season continues. The Jan. 10 edition of the Market News Bulletin from Florida Citrus Mutual noted average Brix of 9.83.

According to Bob Behr, chief executive officer of Florida’s Natural Growers, juice oranges being harvested now are running below average.

Brix Levels

“Citrus greening continues to impact Brix levels for Florida citrus,” Behr said. “Early/mid-season varieties’ Brix levels are running lower than last year and are running low compared to historical averages. Other varieties are running slightly ahead of year-ago averages but are still considered low compared to historical standards. We are hopeful that Valencia Brix levels will be up compared to last season. Recent USDA data indicates that will be the case.”

“Our quality is worse than last season,” noted Jim Snively, vice president of grove operations for Southern Gardens Citrus. “The Brix are very low, and the juice weights are down compared to last season.”

The early-season Brix problems are encouraging growers to seek varieties other than Hamlin, which has been plagued by low Brix since HLB became endemic in Florida.

“Brix in Hamlin oranges is currently extremely low statewide,” said Larry Black, vice president of Peace River Packing. “The USDA reported 9.49 average Brix for Hamlins in December. This continues the downward Brix trend over the last seven years. The industry is transitioning away from Hamlin oranges with low planting rates over the last several years due to HLB and quality concerns.” Hear more from Black and other growers in a recent Citrus Industry article on how the Florida citrus season is faring.

The good news is that consumers still love Florida orange juice.

“In spite of Brix level trends, the flavor profile of Florida orange juice is still very good, evidenced by strong U.S. consumer acceptance,” Behr concluded.

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Frank Giles

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