Florida citrus industry takes a hit from devaluing of Japanese yen

VERO BEACH, Fla. - When a market is based on taste, President of the Riverfront Packing Company, Dan Richey, says it helps to have citrus gold.

"No place else in the world can grow a grapefruit as the Treasure Coast can," said Richey.  

Riverfront Packing Co., based north of Vero Beach, is the world's largest exporter of grapefruits to Japan.

"One out of five grapefruit that's eaten in Japan comes right out of this packing house," Richey said.

Florida's world-famous Indian River grapefruit is heavily dependent on exporting. With a weakened yen, grapefruit now costs 20% more in Japan, and that means fewer sold.

"It used to be a 12 million carton market," Richey recalled. "Now it's a 3.5 to 4 million carton market."

In the past six months, the value of the dollar has shot up, and that's bad news for American companies, like Riverfront, that sell products overseas.

"If we have a very strong dollar, it's hard for us to attack that trade deficit, because our goods are so much more expensive in the foreign countries," he said.

For a county historically founded on its benchmark citrus, Richey said the trickle-down effect of selling fewer grapefruits could be huge.

"It's not just grapefruit, it's not just agricultural products-- it's everything," said Richey.


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