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Florida Citrus Production Strong Before Disease

October 21, 2013 | WMFE--A new report from the state Department of Agriculture shows Florida leads the nation in 2012 orange and grapefruit production, but the situation might not be as positive as that data suggests.

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The report “Florida Agriculture: By the Numbers” offers a detailed comparison of 2011 and 2012 agricultural production in Florida.  It shows growth in the citrus sector both in terms of production and profit – as well as heavy production of other fruits and vegetables.

Dr. Tom Spreen says that’s important since agriculture contributes about $65 billion dollars to the state economy.  Spreen is professor emeritus at the University of Florida’s Food and Resource Economics Department.  He says the problem with the new report  is that it’s data is old.  “Definitely the trend on citrus production is not positive,” Spreen says.  “There’s enough uncertainty in the minds of the growers that if they go out and put out a 48-acre block of citrus the disease may come in there and infect the trees badly enough that they may not recoup the investment.”

The disease Spreen mentions is called citrus greening, and it’s ravaging Florida’s orange and grapefruit crops.  When it comes time to replace old trees, many growers are opting against replanting.

Spreen says the situation isn’t entirely bleak.  Researchers are learning to target the disease and the insect that spreads it.

Moreover, he adds, the new agriculture report indicates Florida leads in the production of a list of other fruits and vegetables not suffering from the disease. 


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