The chief executives of three large US citrus grower associations estimate ‘the immediate COVID-19 impact to certain varieties of citrus will be over USD200 million.’
Casey Creamer of California Citrus Mutual, Dale Murden of Texas Citrus Mutual and Mike Sparks of Florida Citrus Mutual offered that economic damage assessment in an April 9 letter to US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. The letter was intended to help the USDA put together effective programs funded by the USD2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
“The citrus industry impacts have varied greatly by region and variety,” the executives wrote. “To date, the biggest challenges we are seeing across the industry are due (to) the shutdown of schools and restaurants. Additional movement in the retail sector (has) not compensated for losses in food service for lemons, grapefruit juice, and most specialty varieties, and it is too early to tell what the net impact will be for orange juice. California provides the nation’s supply of fresh lemons with over half of the production traditionally going to food service. Total weekly movement of lemons has decreased by 30% in volume” since shelter-in-place requirements took effect across the country.
“Grapefruit and grapefruit juice movement and sales have also come to a dramatic halt since mid-March as schools, restaurants and retail outlets have either closed or severely limited entrance to stores, and buyers are now cancelling orders,” the letter added.
“While we are projecting significant losses in the USD200 million dollar-range by the end of the season, it is too early for us to fully quantify those losses to USDA,” the executives stated. “It will be important that the program USDA implements allows for growers to access relief when demonstrating economic harm. CitrusIndustry.