Thinking about holding a citrus fundraiser this fall? We’ve got bad news. The Florida citrus industry that was once able to supply much of the country’s demand for OJ and fresh grapefruits has fallen victim to a bacterium that causes “citrus greening” in the last 10 or 15 years, causing a steep drop in the availability and affordability of the delicious fruits. This decrease in crop yield means an increase in price and a much more competitive market.
What’s Hurting the Citrus Fundraiser?
The bacterium, Huanglongbing, is spread by tiny winged insects that originated in Asia. The insects “poison” the trees, which then essentially receive a “death sentence” once their sap is contaminated because those trees produce fruit that greens. The main issue with these bugs is that the disease they give to the trees is incurable. Some farmers have started thermotherapy practices, where they encase their trees in plastic and steam out the insects (killing the bugs without causing much damage to the trees), while others have turned to spraying harsh pesticides. Although they are both helpful in the short term, neither of these methods are sustainable options that will provide long-term results.
There’s been a significant drop in the yield of Florida citrus since 2005, when “citrus greening” began in the US. This means that for groups looking to hold a Florida-sourced citrus fundraiser it will be extremely difficult and extremely expensive. Florida is especially susceptible to the infection of the bugs because of the high winds and hurricanes that carry the bugs all over the state. Florida also has a higher amount of smaller citrus farms than somewhere like Brazil, for example, which is also affected by the bugs, but more commercialized and better equipped to handle the infestation. The harvest of all Florida oranges in 2015 was around 97 million boxes, while the projected yield for this season is only 54 million.
There’s Still Hope for the Citrus Fundraiser
The good news is that the affected areas are mainly Florida and Brazil, so there are still viable options for citrus fundraiser sourcing within the United States like California and Texas. The yield of oranges from California and Texas has stayed relatively stable despite the drop in Florida sales; California went from 48 million to 46 million between 2015 and 2018, and Texas increased from 1.452 million to 1.6 million in the same timeframe.
We recommend that this seasons’ citrus fundraiser be ethically sourced from areas that are less heavily-affected by this bacterium while botanists in Florida and Brazil continue to search for sustainable cures. Contact us if you’re interested in starting a citrus fundraiser!