Florida grapefruits cleaner, smaller than typical

Despite greening concerns in areas of the state and smaller sizing due to weather, some Florida growers are calling this year’s crop “excellent” due to the crop’s exceptional cleanliness.

“This is one of the cleanest grapefruit crops I’ve seen, and I’ve been in the business for 29 years,” says Russ Kiger of DLF International Inc. Kiger’s company, based out of Fort Pierce, FL, pulls crop from all over the sunshine state, and Kiger says that crop quality has been consistently excellent among his suppliers.

“The only limiting factor is going to be sizing this year,” Kiger says, adding that lower summer moisture levels stunted crop growth. “It was kind of drier than usual in the summer, especially June.” 

For Kiger’s suppliers, the dry weather has meant that crops are taking longer to reach their full size, resulting in more labor-intensive picking practices. “When you don’t make minimum size, you have to spot pick the fruit,” explains Kiger. But Kiger believes the lack of moisture was partially responsible for this year’s high crop quality, as the drier conditions likely helped stunt spore growth.

Higher prices over 2014
While grapefruit demand continues to recede, responsible growing practices have helped Florida grapefruit pricing return to more profitable levels for 2015.

“It’s kind of a shrinking commodity,” says Kiger. “You have a lot less volume in Florida than even fifteen years ago.”

That shrinking demand has caused supply overages over the past decade, often driving prices down. That doesn’t seem to be the case in 2015, as prices have risen substantially on 4/5 bushel cartons. Kiger notes that in December 2014, 56 count cartons of grapefruit sold for around $7.00, but prices this year have climbed to between $9.00 and $10.00. 

“People are managing their harvests better than in the past… I haven’t seen prices like this in forever.”

For more information:
Russ Kiger
DLF International Inc.
Tel: +1 (772) 778-2550

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