Heavy fruit drop and weather issues reportedly could lead to reduction in Florida’s Valencia orange crop. Some in the citrus industry said COVID-19 issues in processing plants have also limited the intake of Valencias from groves, but the Florida Citrus Processors Association (FCPA) says that is not likely the case.
“Processors have slowed down presumably due to COVID-19 … They have been limiting loads, and growers are far behind where they were this time last year,” Gene McAvoy with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences told citrusindustry.net. Processing plant slowdowns have reportedly been due to increased sanitation procedures, employees staying home to watch children, fear and social distancing.
Valencia fruit drop has increased this season.
“At the same time, abnormally hot, dry, windy weather conditions are stressing trees already suffering from the effects of HLB with the result that we are seeing a high percentage of fruit drop,” McAvoy added. “This was noticeable as far back as February but really accelerated in the latter half of March and April with the result that some growers stand to lose 50 percent or more of their fruit before they can get it harvested. In addition, fruit has started to dry out on the tree and contains less juice per box; quality is also suffering.”
Steve Smith, executive vice president of Gulf Citrus Growers Association, agreed with McAvoy. “I have talked to several growers who are experiencing heavy drops and feel like their load allocation is down due to challenges at the three processing plants that are running, as Gene described,” he said.