Greg Nelson (center), president of DNE World Fruit Sales, talks about citrus production to a group of buyers visiting citrus groves at the Haines City Citrus Growers Association during a March 4 tour at Southern Exposure 2011.
The organization’s big winter event saw large numbers of retail, foodservice and wholesale buyers converge on the Sunshine State.
Terry Vorhees, the Riverview-based council’s executive director, said 1,340 people registered to attend the March 3-5 retail and foodservice conference and exposition, up from the 1,300 that participated last year. He said several retailers came in at the last minute.
On March 3, the council’s yearly golf tournament saw 270 contestants, up from last year’s 225, Vorhees said.
On March 4, buses loaded with retail and foodservice buyers visited central Florida citrus groves and a citrus research center to see harvesting, packing and learn about fruit variety development.
Visiting the 102-year-old Haines City Citrus Growers Association, Haines City, which markets its fruit through DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, buyers saw the fresh citrus packing process from grove to packaging and shipment.
“Our industry has a rich tradition that is able to overcome hurricanes and diseases,” said Greg Nelson, DNE’s president. “One of the reasons is due to the fortitude of the people in this business.”
At the association, buyers visited a valencia grove to see late-season fruit being harvested and saw grapefruit and valencias running on the packing line, which has seen up to $15 million in packinghouse improvements over the last decade, Nelson said.
At the Florida Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, Peter Chaires, director of strategic management and business development for Florida Citrus Packers Inc., Lakeland, and executive director of the industry’s New Varieties Development & Management Corp., discussed how the industry is trying to speed the process of bringing new varieties into commercial use.
“We have a tremendous opportunity for replacing many of our specialty varieties (tangerines) and the capacity for introducing many new varieties into the market-place,” he said.