So far, citrus leaders in California say there is no evidence of citrus greening in commercial citrus groves, a disease that ravaged Florida citrus groves over the last 15 years. While that’s good news for California, it’s still cause for concern in Florida. A recent report by USDA’s Economic Research Service suggests 2019/20 citrus production levels in Florida are forecast to be steady with last year despite the disease already affecting production levels. However, President of California Citrus Mutual Casey Creamer told Agri-Pulse the report could use some additional perspective. “I think that a little misleading when you look at the significant decline in production in Florida over the last ten to 15 years,” Creamer said. Creamer also pointed out most of Florida’s citrus crop goes to juice production, so it isn’t as bad as getting an infected tree in California where most citrus heads straight to the fresh market. “When you are growing for a fresh market, the outside visuals of that commodity are paramount,” he said. “It will have significant impacts because we are not able to do the kind blending or the things that can be done in Florida.” He noted the state has been vigilant in trying to eradicate the Asian Citrus Psyllid, a bug that causes the disease by injecting bacteria into the leaf it is feeding on. “It this gets large spread in our industry, its total devastation of the California fresh citrus industry,” Creamer remarked. The 2018/2019 citrus crop is valued at $3.35 billion, according to ERS. The 2019/20 U.S. citrus crop is forecast to be 7.63 million tons which is down 4% from the previous season, according to USDA’s Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook for March. The report noted declines in overall production is due to smaller lemon, tangerine, and mandarin crops in California.
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