Kristen Carlson, executive director of the Florida Citrus Processors Association, answers questions from Tacy Callies, Citrus Industry editor.
Q: What are the current opportunities in Florida citrus processing?
A: There is some excess capacity in Florida should the citrus greening situation improve, and Florida increases its box production. Greening has decreased the yield of boxes per tree. With less impact from greening, total boxes will grow and hopefully the season will stretch longer. Traditionally, we processed to the end of June. Now we are lucky if the fruit holds on the tree until the middle of May.
Newer varieties like Vernia are important. The early-season Hamlin variety is more susceptible to greening, and the crop size is shrinking faster than the late-season Valencia. The decline of Hamlins shrinks the processing season and increases cost. Therefore, these newer varieties can replace some of the loss of Hamlins and generally produce higher quality.
Q: What are the current challenges facing Florida citrus processors?
A: Citrus processing is a capital-intensive operation with high fixed costs. The shrinking crops in Florida have increased costs. Grower costs have increased dramatically over the last decade. This total increase has contributed to declining demand for orange juice. Lower demand has also forced some processors to close their doors. Twenty years ago, Citrosuco and Southern Gardens were two of the best situated processors; both have discontinued processing fruit. Cargill stopped processing more than a decade ago.
Q: How will OJ imports affect this citrus season?
A: We saw last year that high inventories and a decent Florida crop caused prices to collapse for the fruit that was not contracted. While this volume was small, it was financially devastating for the growers who …..
Read moere about The State of the Florida Citrus Processing Industry on the Citrus Industry website.