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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.
On labor issues in the citrus industry…
“The Florida citrus industry depends on migrant labor to harvest crops. We really need to have a strong immigrant workforce available.”
On Isaac and 2012 weather…
“We weren’t impacted by Isaac. But there’s been a significant amount of rainfall in the northern tier of the citrus belt. The southern tier hasn’t gotten as much rain but it seems there is adequate water supply even there.
“Weather has been pretty kind to our citrus industry so far this year.”
On orange juice…
“Although we’re the largest grower of grapefruit in the world (and export about 50 percent of the crop) oranges produced for juice makes up the vast majority of Florida citrus.
“That means we’re reliant on consumers continuing to drink orange juice. The demand for Florida orange juice is still sizable. However, it’s lower than it was pre-hurricanes.
“Part of that is the balance of supply to demand. Because we’re not producing as much juice as we were seven years ago, we can’t sell as much.”
On the impact of the citrus industry on the state’s economy…
“The latest valuations we’ve done show that citrus production in Florida has a $9 billion economic impact on the state. It provides, directly and indirectly, about 78,000 jobs.
“So, it’s a major economic driver as the biggest agricultural commodity grown in the state. And, behind tourism, agriculture is the second-largest industry in Florida.
“We want to stress that Florida growers are regaining confidence that we can overcome the HLB disease -- something that no other citrus has been able to survive. And we’re going to eventually rebuild to pre-hurricane levels and provide U.S. consumers with great-tasting orange juice and grapefruit that they’ve come to enjoy and love.”