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סיכום של המחקר הגדול (168 עמ`), באדיבות היח` לחקר שווקים 

 
Posted on Wed, Mar. 22, 2006

 
Report: Citrus crash possible

HERALD STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

LAKELAND - The Florida citrus industry could shrink by nearly half if worst-case scenarios on disease damage and high land prices are realized, according to a University of Florida report.

The industry would continue to survive, but average annual orange production would stabilize at 123 million boxes during the next 15 years - down 44 percent from the average 220 million boxes produced annually from the 1994-2004, according to the most pessimistic scenario in a recent report. It assumes a high number of trees lost to citrus greening and canker and skyrocketing land prices.

Local growers fear the projections are accurate.


"That's realistic," said Byron Hodgin, who lost his 100-acre grove north of Parrish to canker Sept. 9. "And if any of the other factors gets worse, the projection could get worse."


Hodgin figures he lost $500,000 in grapefruit to canker. He now has rented out his fields for cabbage planting.

"The most devastated is going to be grapefruit for fresh," Hodgin said. "There are no trees left. So much of what the state aimed at with eradication was grapefruit."

Hodgin thinks citrus may have only 10 years left in Florida.

"Greening could take the fresh really quick," Hodgin said, referring to the disease caused by a gnat-like insect. "There really isn't any spray for it. It's the real sleeper here. You can't manage it like you can with canker."

The Herald reported Saturday that citrus nurseries may also go out of business due to regulations being considered to combat canker and greening.

A new state and federal program aimed at curtailing the diseases may call for nurseries to be totally enclosed and air-tight by Jan. 1, 2008, forcing growers to spend millions of dollars on their renovation.

One local nurseryman, B.C. Drymon of Sarasota, said it would cost him about $800,000 an acre to enclose his nearly five acres of fields, where young citrus plants grow.

The nursery operators would have to pass the cost of young trees on to homeowners, which could raise the prices to a level where they may not be affordable, Drymon said.

Drymon said he would probably have to go out of business if the plan goes through.

The more likely outcome is a 152-million box average after the 15-year period, with more moderate canker and greening impacts.

"One of the things I got from this analysis is there's a lot of resiliency in the citrus industry," said lead researcher Tom Spreen, chairman of the university's Food and Resource Economics Department.

The study looked at 11 different economic scenarios, including a base projection assuming no impacts from canker, greening and land pressures. That projected an orange crop of 204 million boxes in the 2020-21 season.

The good news is that, under both the most likely and the most pessimistic scenarios, the supply shortage would roughly double the farm price for oranges.

That means the citrus industry would have a projected $10.8 billion impact on the state's economy in the 2020-21 season, 16 percent greater than its estimated impact of $9.3 billion in the 2003-04 season. However, the industry would account for a smaller part of the state's economy in 15 years because of stronger growth in other sectors.

"I think we're a little premature. We don't know what we'll have with canker in eight to 10 months," said Ron Hamel, the executive vice president of the Gulf Citrus Growers Association, which represents 132 growers with 89,000 grove acres. "I don't think anybody is questioning production is going down. The question is: How far?"

The study also showed continued low production for grapefruit, the crop that took the biggest losses from recent hurricanes. Grapefruit production averaged 48.6 million boxes in the decade ending 2003-04, but fell to 12.8 million boxes last year and is projected at 17 million boxes this season.

The most likely scenario had grapefruit rising to 20 million boxes in 2020-21. The most pessimistic scenario projected 18 million boxes.

Canker is a wind-blown bacterial disease that blemishes citrus fruit and causes increased droppings from trees, but does not kill them. Greening, a bacterial disease that does kill trees, is spread mainly by the Asian citrus psyllid, a common insect in Florida.

Richard Dymond, Herald staff writer, contributed to this report.


 

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