Florida’s citrus industry is hurting in a big way. The final report of the growing season by the U.S. Department of Agriculture put Florida orange production for the 2014-15 season at 96.7 million boxes, a drop of 4 percent from last year.
This week on Florida Matters (Tuesday, Aug. 4 at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 9 at 7:30 a.m.), we take a look at the future of Florida’s signature crop — and the fight against citrus greening — with Mike Sparks, the executive vice president and CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual, and Kevin Bouffard, a senior reporter with The Ledger of Lakeland.
This season was the first time in 49 years that production dipped below 100 million boxes, Bouffard said. The bleak numbers on Florida’s citrus crop show a decline in the orange harvest of more than 60 percent since the peak of production during the 1997-98 season.
The report, which is the final one of the season, was released in July. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says the statistics are a “new low” for Florida citrus. Much of the decline is due to the deadly citrus greening disease. Greening is spread by a gnat-sized insect called the Asian citrus psyllid.