American Farm Bureau Federation economist Daniel Munch recently detailed concerns about the U.S. citrus industry in a report titled U.S. Citrus Production – An Uphill Battle to Survive. Excerpts providing an overview of those concerns follow.
Once leaders in citrus crop production, U.S. growers (particularly those in Florida) have faced numerous challenges that have led to an unfortunate decline in domestic supply.
PRODUCTION LEVELS BY CATEGORY
Since 2000, total domestic production of oranges has dropped 80%, from 300 million boxes to a projected 62 million in 2023.
Like oranges, grapefruit have seen a continuous drop in domestic production heavily linked to the weather and disease factors affecting Florida. Since 2000, domestic grapefruit production has dropped from 67 million boxes to 8 million boxes, an 88% decline.
Citrus fruits not as commonly grown in Florida have not faced the same domestic output declines. Lemon production, exclusive to California and Arizona, has hovered between 20 million and 30 million boxes since the 1980s.
The only citrus fruit category to show a clear increase in production is the tangerine category, which includes tangelos, mandarins, clementines and traditional tangerines. By volume, tangerine production has increased from 10 million boxes to over 21 million boxes since 2000, a 107% increase.
CITRUS GREENING GETS MOST BLAME
Citrus production in the United States has dropped to levels so low that U.S. citrus producers can no longer support domestic demand nor lead the world in market share. The primary factor contributing to this continues to be the spread of citrus greening disease throughout the primary production state of Florida, though other forces are at play.
California and Texas, which have been able to maintain and even increase production of most citrus crops, could take on some of this production decline. However, they face their own intrastate challenges, including potential citrus greening outbreaks in their groves.
RESEARCH, RISK PROTECTION ARE ESSENTIAL
Thankfully, land grant university research has revealed modest advancements in breeding and treatment options to counter citrus greening. Programs like the Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Extension Program are essential to finding effective, financially sustainable solutions for growers.
Additionally, ensuring risk protection programs, such as crop insurance, provide affordable and adequate protection of high-value citrus crops is critical to maintaining operations in the face of natural disasters.
Source: American Farm Bureau Federation
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