“It’s getting harder to compete with Mexico,” he said.
“One grower, Pacific Collier Fresh, is out. Then there are some others that have cut back on acreage. I think acreage will be down overall in Florida.”
Other growers express confidence in the coming season.
“We are optimistic for this season,” said Frank Pero, corporate executive vice president of Pero Family Farms, Delray Beach.
“The weather so far has cooperated and the hurricanes haven’t come. The plantings are on-schedule and the volumes should be there. The crops look great. We should have a good start for the season.”
Growers say they hope fall and winter bring more favorable growing conditions and spare them from devastating freezes.
“The last couple of years have been difficult,” said Kent Shoemaker, chief executive officer of Lipman, Immokalee.
“But because of our geographic diversity, we’re able to continue to provide product to our customers and that will be our focus this year. That’s the ultimate form of optimism with all the challenges our industry continues to face. Our company remains committed to growing and continuing to farm the land.”
Citrus grower-shippers also say harvests have started well.
“The grapefruit quality is exceptionally well,” said Jason Bedsole, sales manager of Eastern vegetables and citrus for Duda Farm Fresh Foods Inc., the fresh division of Oviedo-based A. Duda & Sons Inc.
“We have good quality on oranges and tangerines as well. Volumes are good on all. We have had a very good start.”
Duda, which packs its fruit at Peace River Citrus, Vero Beach, began its grapefruit harvest in late September and started its oranges in mid-October.