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Citrus growers squeezed by inflation

Citrus crop reaching lows not seen in decades
Posted at 5:44 PM, Apr 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-13 17:44:38-04

GIFFORD, Fla. — At Riverfront Packing Company in Gifford, President Dan Richey opens a giant cooler to look over the last batches of this years grapefruit harvest.

His product is shopped around the world to European and Asian markets.

"We had a good season, the crop was excellent. The internal quality and flavor was very good," said Richey.

The problem though, is there's not enough fruit overall.

Richey said the recent spike in the cost of orange juice is purely a supply and demand issue, “Citrus greening most recently, urban encroachment and hurricanes. They’ve all contributed to a decline in the citrus volume.”

The citrus crop is reaching lows not seen in decades.

The latest USDA forecast predicts 42.6 million boxes of citrus this year, down from 52.8 million last year.

Just 20 years ago, Florida produced around 287 million boxes of citrus.

Despite declining yields, Richey said there are rising costs for the grower from cartons to shipping, "We’re seeing a doubling in the cost of fertilizer, right when we start to fertilize. We’re seeing a doubling in the cost of diesel."

Richey said they can’t necessarily pass on all their added expenses to the consumer.

“There is a glass ceiling on what the price point can be for consumers to take away... we’re aware of that,” he said.

But with a product still in high demand despite all of the challenges, Richey said the citrus industry will survive, "Things will be a little different. We are not going away. We are very optimistic about the future."