Scientists from all over the world are in Orlando this week trying to find a way to save the $9 billion Florida citrus industry.
It’s hard to imagine one without the other.
“A lot of people depend on our industry," said Larry Black of the Peace River Packing Company. "We are literally Florida’s signature crop."
Citrus growers such as Black explain how difficult it has become to grow those tasty little pieces of fruit.
A disease known as citrus greening carried by a tiny insect has spread across the state over the last five years. It’s getting worse, and the outlook for citrus, especially oranges, is not good.
“This year has been by far the worst so far,” Black said.
Growers are seeing misshapen and discolored fruit more often, and when they cut it open, the seeds on the inside are bad. That means the fruit is no good.
The Florida Citrus Mutual in Lakeland said diseased fruit is putting this $9 billion industry that creates about 76,000 jobs statewide at risk.
“This is grave concern to the industry, and we need to find something in the laboratory to sustain the future of our growers,” said Andrew Meadows, Florida Citrus Mutual.
The worst-case scenario that these folks fear is the disease taking over and wiping out the entire citrus industry in Florida. That would, hypothetically, give other countries chance to put more expensive fruit and juice on your table.
“We’re proud to provide customers around the world with a nutritious healthy part of their day,” Black said.
Growers such as Black are doing all they can to make sure citrus production is a major part of Florida’s economy for years to come.
Florida growers have spent millions out of their own pocket to fund research that will, hopefully, stop this disease from continuing to spread.
The spokesperson for the Florida Citrus Mutual said something needs to be done in the next five to ten years to save the industry.