World OJ demand, open hydroponics and psyllid control top Citrus Industry Conference

07/14/2011 04:01:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

During the next 30 years, demand for orange juice is projected to outstrip supply by about 2 billion single-strength equivalent gallons.

For Florida growers to take advantage of the boom, they must start thinking about redeveloping existing groves or putting in new high-density plantings today, says Bob Norberg, deputy executive director of research and operations for the Bartow-based Florida Department of Citrus.

World orange juice production has dropped from 3.5 billion SSE gallons in 2000 to about 2.7 billion SSE gallons in 2010.

Brazil accounts for 54 percent and Florida accounts for 30 percent of today’s production.

But orange juice consumption hasn’t dropped as much during the same period. As a result, much of the excess production that was put into inventory during earlier oversupply has worked its way through the pipeline.

“Inventory in both Florida and Brazil is pretty well depleted,” Norberg told attendees of the recent Florida Citrus Industry Conference in Bonita Springs.

As worldwide economies recover from the current recession, consumers will invest more money into food, strengthening demand for orange juice, he says. Because orange juice is income elastic, as incomes rise, so does orange juice consumption.

“If Florida starts to plant trees now, we could pick up a share of that opportunity,” Norberg says.

The opportunity he mentions could be as much as a 2 billion SSE gallon shortfall worldwide by 2040.

But to capitalize on it, Norberg says the Florida citrus industry will have to overcome several challenges, including constraints on the number of trees nurseries can produce and reducing tree mortality from huanglongbing, also known as HLB or citrus greening.

Since 2006, citrus nurseries must propagate trees in a screened facility to exclude Asian citrus psyllid, the HLB vector. The requirement has reduced the number of orange trees they can produce to about 2.3 million annually, he says.

That compares with peak nursery production of about 6 million trees in 1987, long before the protected greenhouse rule, Norberg says. At the same time, growers are replanting lost trees at a rate of about 4 percent or about 2.4 million trees annually.

“We need about 60 [million] to 90 million more trees to meet the opportunities,” he says. “We also need to change the mortality and replanting rates.”

Open hydroponics and psyllid control

Among the other topics covered at the Florida Citrus Industry Conference were:

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