US – The Florida Legislature has approved a budget of USD 47 million to support the state’s citrus industry, with USD 2 million earmarked for the Citrus Recovery Program.

Despite the slow dispersal of relief funds allocated by Congress in 2022 to assist producers affected by natural disasters nationwide, these recent developments bring a glimmer of hope.

“The Florida Legislature’s investments today in research and innovation will support the restoration of Florida’s signature crop to its former glory,” stated Joyner, expressing gratitude to officials involved in securing the funding.

The allocation of funds to the Citrus Recovery Program, administered by the Florida Department of Citrus, underscores the industry’s commitment to advancing technologies that combat citrus greening, a critical step towards ensuring the long-term sustainability of Florida’s citrus sector.

Florida’s citrus industry has been facing mixed fortunes in the latest monthly citrus forecast released by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Board for 2024.

While grapefruit and tangerine yields are down by 8% and 9% respectively, projections for Florida oranges remain steady at 19.8 million boxes, indicating resilience in the face of challenges.

The grapefruit production dipped by 200,000 boxes from February, with red grapefruit and white grapefruit both showing decreases.

Despite this, the industry is pushing forward, with an 84% completion rate for grapefruit harvesting according to a row count survey conducted by the USDA from Feb. 26-27.

Commenting on the promising outlook for Florida’s oranges, Matt Joyner, CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual, expressed optimism, saying, “Vibrant white orange blossoms covering groves across Florida’s citrus belt signal the industry’s ‘Spring’ back to health.”

This optimism is crucial as the industry grapples with challenges like past hurricane damage and the persistent threat of citrus greening disease, HLB. The current figures represent a significant 25% increase year-on-year, offering hope for recovery.

The road to recovery hasn’t been easy. Following record-low production in 2023 due to hurricanes Ian and Nicole, the Florida Citrus Mutual has been tirelessly advocating for recovery funding.

Hurricane Ian alone ravaged approximately 375,000 acres of citrus groves across Florida, inflicting up to USD 675 million in damages, as estimated by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

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