Tough, and likely shorter, season for Florida grapefruit

After Hurricane Irma swept through Florida late last summer, grapefruit growers in the state are now feeling the effects.

“We were devastated by the storm and were expecting a good solid year—at least a good year in the sense of where we’d been in the last two years,” says G.T. Parris of Vero Beach, Fl.-based Seald Sweet International. “But the storm decreased our volumes by as much as half. The quality has also been a bit down—the fruit’s been beat up. So there’s less fruit, the quality has been suspect and it’s made for a tough season for grapefruit.”

David Haller agrees about the lack of supply. “Production is down as much as 50 percent since so much of the crop was affected by Irma,” says Haller of Premier Citrus also in Vero Beach, Fl.

Photo: Premier Citrus

Demand still high  
So while supply is down significantly, demand isn’t, given Florida grapefruit’s reputation. “Most of the Florida grapefruit is coming from the Indian River growing region, which is considered the best grapefruit growing area in the world,” says Haller. “However there’s just not enough to fulfil the market demand here or abroad.”

Photo: Premier Citrus

The season is likely to be cut short. Parris says that while normally growers are hitting the peaks of their season right now, some are talking about being done by the first of February. In the meantime, other regions are stepping in to supply the fruit. “Texas grapefruit is taking advantage of Florida’s deficit in the U.S. and imports from Mexico and Israel are capitalizing on the shortage overseas,” says Haller.

Prices pushed upwards
Not surprisingly, this combination of events and others (Haller points to increasing grove care costs) has led to historically high pricing on the citrus. “On average, it’s $2-$3 higher across the board. “And this has an effect on what retail does because they have price points. They know where their fruit is going to sell at. And when you start getting outside of those numbers, they pull back,” says Parris.

That said, growers are seeing a silver lining. “The appeal of the product is strong and grapefruit consumers have come to realize that Florida grapefruit is still the quality leader globally,” adds Haller.

For more information:
G.T. Parris
Seald Sweet International
Tel: +1-772-569-2244

David Haller
Premier Citrus
Tel: +1-772-562-5030

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