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Bob Norberg, an economist with the Florida Department of Citrus, says growers are expressing optimism despite daunting issues with disease, problems with the economy, and a continuing recovery from a series of hurricanes.
No known cure
There is no known cure for citrus greening and Norberg says any citrus industry around the world that has ever had a significant battle with citrus greening is no longer in business.
Several years ago, Florida implemented a disease research program and enlisted the help of “the best plant scientists, bacteria scientists and anyone else who could add their expertise. We’re beginning to see a bit of fruit from that research and growers are becoming a bit more confident that we’ll eventually be able to deal with HLB.”
For more on research efforts, see here. http://southeastfarmpress.com/orchard-crops/senator-nelson-reaffirms-backing-citrus-research
“We’ll likely never be without HLB. However, we’ll find ways to mitigate its damage to the trees and fruit.”
All of that means that in today’s environment “we have a much smaller (citrus) crop than we did prior to 2004. Retail prices have reflected this by moving up. Consumption (of citrus products) has gone down as prices have gone up. Prices are about 35 percent higher than they were in 2005.
“But that means pretty good fruit prices for growers. That has made them more confident today that they can plant new trees and regain market share over time even at higher prices.”
The industry is “pretty optimistic. We’re looking at a bigger crop in the coming season – maybe up 5 percent, or so, of a gain in crop size. We haven’t seen that in the last few years. Prices are expected to be fairly good, although they probably won’t be as good as they were last year.”
For more on the recovery of Florida’s citrus industry, see here. http://southeastfarmpress.com/orchard-crops/florida-citrus-mutual-leader-upbeat-future-industry
Among Norberg’s other comments:
On establishing new groves…
“A fruit variety is budded onto root stock and that’s grown in a nursery for between one and two years. Usually when a grower gets a nursery tree it’s already two years old.
“Then, it takes another three years before the tree will produce a crop – albeit a small crop – worth harvesting. The general rule of thumb is it takes five to six years before you reach the break-even cost of planting that tree.
“Under normal circumstances, a citrus tree will continue to grow and produce for 20 to 30 years. Under the new HLB environment we’re wondering how long the trees will typically last. But usually, six years after planting a tree, you can expect to reap the benefits for another 20 years.”
On the possibility of rising planted acres…
“The USDA actually just released a report on this – a citrus tree inventory. That indicates that net planting (plantings minus losses) has declined even up to this year.
“However, planting intentions seem to be higher. We hear from a lot of growers that they’d like to plant more trees. They’re hoping the nurseries will grow more trees for them. And nurserymen are now expanding their production.”