With Florida's citrus farmers facing some of their toughest ever times due to the combined effect of a spreading tree blight and the fallout from the pandemic, innovation appears to be essential to sustain exports to Japan. Trouble arrived in Florida via a Chinese cargo vessel almost 20 years ago. Florida's orange trees were infected by 'citrus greening disease', which had been spreading worldwide. Once infected, branches become deformed, and the fruit falls off. Before long, the trees wither and die.
Even now, there is no established cure for the disease, although it has spread to Asia, Africa, and other regions. Trees must simply be cut down.
In the 2020-2021 season, citrus shipments dropped to less than 7,000 tons, and now the double blow of soaring labor and fuel costs amid the pandemic is compounding the problem.
Now, Florida enterprises are seeking ways to revive Florida's citrus industry; one of these is a pilot project with Coca-Cola Co. to protect young trees from disease in cooperation with Takasago International Corp. in Tokyo.