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• Mike Sparks and other industry leaders hope Florida’s citrus acreage of about 550,000, down from its high of 850,000, has bottomed out and will trend upward.
ADAM PUTNAM, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, greets friends at the Florida Citrus Industry annual conference.
Have Plan B for labor
“I recommend that all growers have a Plan B for labor. What is your Plan B for bringing in an adequate labor supply for harvesting your citrus crop?”
For some, a Plan B might involve mechanical harvesting, now being used on an estimated 6 percent to 8 percent of the state’s acreage.
A chemical abscission agentto make removing fruit easier for both machines and hand labor, after testing for many years, is under review by the EPA, with a decision promised by February 2013, says Taw Richardson, CEO and president of AgroSource, Inc., the company licensed to market the as yet unnamed material.
“It has been used successfully around the state in tests,” he says. “It’s pretty predictable, if you follow the protocol on how to use it.”
He thinks it could result in rethinking tree architecture and grove design, as well as current harvesting equipment.
“We’re going to have to look at our planning and think about these processes going forward with this,” Richardson says.
Grapefruit producers learned that the Florida Department of Citrus will expand its branding program in Japan. Already marketed under a Florida brand, the department’s Japanese partners called for a sub-brand on the order of “Blessed by the sun.”
That’s a possible approach over the next year, says Ackerman. The department also will tout grapefruit’s health benefit to Japanese women buyers.
Asia represents a feel-good story for grapefruit. The U.S. has no real competitor in Japan, Ackerman says, while Korean demand increased 20 percent over the past year. Another major customer, Canada, remains stable. That’s all positive, considering the European economic upheaval, he says.
Vic Story, closing out his term as Florida Citrus Mutual’s president, summed up his thoughts about this year’s gathering: “Fantastic. Absolutely wonderful.”