South Georgia and North Florida industry leaders preached diversification to citrus growers at the Georgia Citrus Association annual conference. The event took place Feb. 28 at the University of Georgia (UGA) Tifton Conference Center.
No longer should satsuma mandarins be the crop of choice for potential growers. There are other viable options for farmers to choose from, said Lindy Savelle, president of the Georgia Citrus Association.
“What we’re trying to do is get people to understand that they need to diversify,” Savelle said. “A lot of us are saying no more satsumas. Let’s put in some other products like red navels, red grapefruit, Tangos and Shiranui, because we want to flatten out that huge curve of what’s coming in with satsumas.”
Savelle said that while satsumas offer the benefit of cold hardiness, they have a short harvest window of 4 to 5 weeks. The fruit loses quality quickly on the tree after it ripens. It can even turn soft and puffy. Other citrus lasts longer and provides an extended marketing window for producers.
“It makes it a longer opportunity for the packing sheds,” said Savelle. “They’ll be open longer. Some of this fruit starts coming off in October. Now, instead of just satsumas, we can extend it on into the first of the year. This is good profitability, not only for the growers but the buyers, the packing sheds and the end users.”
Jake Price, UGA Lowndes County Extension coordinator, said in an article last year that Georgia is projected to produce more than 59 million pounds of citrus by 2024. That is compared to the approximately 8.4 million pounds that were harvested this past season.
“We have a lot of satsumas. We don’t know how much the market can absorb. I just know there’s going to be a lot coming off in the next two or three years,” Price said. “We try to tell people to diversify just so we’ll have things to come in after satsumas that will store longer and keep better on the tree.”
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