Florida's citrus harvest continues to sour due to disease, hurricanes

'It made a hard year, really hard,' Jimmy Hayes of TerMarsch Groves says
Posted at 5:47 PM, May 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-18 17:47:35-04

JUNO BEACH, Fla. — Florida citrus crops are down this season.

"Every year has been worse, and this year was not going to be the best," Jimmy Hayes said.

Hayes works at the TerMarsch Groves roadside stand on U.S.-1 in Juno Beach. He said everything from disease to hurricanes Ian and Nicole has affected their citrus sales.

"The second hurricane came through in November and hit Fort Pierce and that's our favorite region," he said, "that's where we get most of our citrus from."

Jimmy Hayes TerMarsch Groves roadside stand on U.S.-1 in Juno Beach May 18 2023.jpg
Jimmy Hayes describes how the citrus harvest season has impacted TerMarsch Groves roadside stand on U.S.-1 in Juno Beach.

According to the USDA, Florida growers are expected to harvest over 15 million boxes of oranges during this season, which is 450,000 less than the April forecast.

"It made a hard year, really hard," Hayes said.

The USDA said at its peak during the 1997-98 season, the citrus industry in Florida produced 244 million boxes of oranges.

"I usually buy navel oranges, but these look really good," Julie Vine said.

barrel of Florida-grown oranges

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So, as production declines costs are being passed on to consumers, like Vine.

"It may have gone up a little bit but when you need something, and you like it, you're going to pay for it," she said.

The industry trade group Florida Citrus Mutual said there are many reasons for Florida Growers to be optimistic.

Julie Vine at TerMarsch Groves May 18 2023.jpg
Citrus consumer Julie Vine shares how she's still buying citrus though prices have gone up a bit.

New treatments for diseases are working and the Florida legislature is helping with funding for replanting and hurricane relief.

Hayes said he's optimistic too.

"I think production is going to go up with remedies they've come up with," he said. "I keep hearing a lot more positive stuff."

According to Florida Citrus Mutual, recently the Florida legislature voted in favor of a state budget that provides $65 million in support of Florida citrus.