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Undersized fruit is perfect for the juice market

Florida grapefruit season will be short

Florida grapefruit supplies are dwindling down quickly, which could result in a pretty short season overall. “As an industry, production is down quite a bit this year and we attribute that to the greening disease and the hurricane that came through in the fall,” said Dave Haller of Greene River Marketing Inc. Initially growers thought it didn’t cause much damage but as the season went on it showed more damage, including fruit drop. “The pack outs dropped considerably after the first of the year,” he said, indicating the first three months of the season garnered high quality fruit with pack outs in the 70-80% range but then after the first of the year they dropped 20% more. “Now it’s holding at 40-50 per cent. When the production drops you’re picking twice as much to try and get your normal amount so it goes by pretty quickly.” Grapefruit is packed under the main label, Sunkist and their house label, Tradition.

Wrapping up within next two weeks
Grapefruit is coming out of the Indian River district, plus there’s still some coming out of the interior and the gulf growing region. “I suspect that most of the bigger players will be wrapping up with their grapefruit within the next two weeks and then some of the smaller ones will hold on a couple more weeks.” It’s likely by the end of March most of the grapefruit in the state of Florida will be harvested – “at least what’s packable,” he said. 

Growing costs have gone up
Prices remain positive at the retail level but costs for some of the applications being installed in the groves to fight citrus greening, for instance, has upped spending twice as much in the field in order to keep the crop alive and growing. “Where we used to spend $1,200/acre and get 600 boxes/acre we’re now spending double that maybe more and getting 300-440 boxes. On the flipside the cost to the consumer is up.” Haller says the grapefruit juice market is also strong which makes good use for undersized fruit caused by greening. “We’ve got healthy trees and a solid crop but a lot of the fruit is undersized so it can’t get packed.”

There has been some forward movement in the research to combat citrus greening. Research on programs so far includes different sprays and nutritionals that can be added to the soil. “What we’re seeing is it’s allowing the roots to open up, the nutrition is getting to the tree so we’ve got healthy trees,” said Haller. It’s the fruit itself though that still needs to achieve a bigger size. “It’s a work in progress but it’s going to take some time.”

For more information:
David Haller
Greene River Marketing, Inc.
Tel: 772-778-8403

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