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USDA predicts another hard year ahead for Florida citrus growers

Indonesia Lunar New Year
Tatan Syuflana/AP
Orange trees are for sale in the preparation of the Lunar New Year at a plantation in Jakarta, Indonesia. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

Florida citrus growers are bracing themselves for another challenging year after two back-to-back hurricanes this fall.

The USDA’s citrus forecast for the state predicts a drop in production this year.

It puts orange production at about 18 million boxes. That's down 10% from the December forecast. And if that forecast holds, that will be about 56% less than last season's final production.

Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association’s Christina Morton said most growers are sticking it out, but some are leaving the family business.

“As citrus growers decide to leave the industry, some are because of these challenges that they're facing that land is not likely to return to citrus," said Morton. "So it's so important that we continue to invest in citrus research, protect our way of life and ensure reliable domestic food supply.”

Morton said for those who stay, a post-pandemic silver living might just offset some of those losses.

As people are inspired to eat healthier, they’re reaching for Florida grown oranges and orange juice again in stores.

“I think that's kind of something that we saw come out of the the pandemic is kind of this renewed emphasis on a healthier lifestyle and, you know, drinking orange juice, Florida orange juice," said Morton. "So we've seen the consumer demand for it, and we're seeing the support from our lawmakers and private industry.” 

Morton says people should buy orange products with the Fresh from Florida sticker on them to support local farmers.

Danielle Prieur is a general assignment reporter at WMFE. You can hear her reporting on a daily basis on the station. She also fills-in as a host during the morning and afternoon drive times. Her reporting has been featured on NPR, Marketplace, Here & Now, and Vox. Danielle is originally from Rochester Hills, Michigan and is a graduate of both the University of Michigan and Northwestern University. In her free time, she enjoys playing her guitar, writing fiction, and cooking.
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