By Steve Johnson
The first U.S. Department of Agriculture crop forecast of the season was announced on Oct. 12. While the forecast arrived on a stormy day, the numbers were radiant rays of sunshine for our growers, and the Florida citrus industry as a whole. Every member of this industry knows there are still hurdles to clear, and there will always be new challenges we need to face, but a potential 25% increase in our crop is nourishing to our souls.
Tree health is a major factor as to why we are starting to see that slow upswing again. Statewide, Florida growers have shown a true commitment to strengthening their existing trees and growing healthier trees from initial plantings. With ingenuity and flexibility, our growers are actively trying tree therapies and protective measures against huanglongbing and starting to look forward to other grove improvements we set our sights on.
Healthy trees lead directly to quality Florida citrus. It’s just that simple. What we are seeing right now in both oranges and grapefruit is better size and fruit staying on trees. Consumer demand is still high. Having more fruit changes the economics and helps keep retail prices in the range consumers are more willing to pay.
None of this is an overnight process. Citrus breeding takes years to understand and perfect. Scientists and researchers have worked closely with our growers to get us to this point, and their efforts are paying off.
Being a Florida citrus grower means having to be innovative, adaptive and patient. Every single one of us is committed to putting the highest-quality, safest product in the hands of consumers worldwide. It is that commitment that keeps us forging forward through the toughest challenges this industry has ever faced. We are on the right path, and more importantly, we are walking it together as a unified industry.
Steve Johnson is chairman of the Florida Citrus Commission.
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