Participants at the yearly Indian River Citrus Seminar on Jan. 24-25 heard about the viability of Florida’s fresh citrus industry, research into citrus canker disease-resistant varieties and weather trends that call for an active 2007 hurricane season.
Bob Norberg, director of economic and market research for the Florida Department of Citrus, Lakeland, said December through June is the prime marketing window for U.S. orange sales.
“If we’re going to capitalize on what happened with California, we need to do it now,” he said. “We have this window from now to June to really push Florida oranges. This is where we can really improve.”
Norberg said navel imports from South Africa and Australia July through September should arrive at lower prices during Florida’s May-through-September off-season, a factor Florida’s shippers will have to deal with to expand their presence in the marketplace.
W. Cody Estes Sr., president of Vero Beach-based Quality Fruit Packers of Indian River Inc. and grower Estes Citrus Inc., said he doesn’t think Florida has seen the full affect of California’s losses yet.
“There is certainly some optimism in the industry that we will get some shelf space back,” he said. “We have been out of the market for the last two years. We were out of sight and out of mind. I’m optimistic we can get some shelf space back. And that’s what we need.”
Doug Bournique, executive vice president of the Indian River Citrus League, Vero Beach, a conference co-sponsor, said the industry has already seen an increase in sales. This year’s higher quality grapefruit have also helped, he said.
“We are experiencing a rebound high-quality crop,” he said. “It eats like candy. It really does. It’s delicious.”