Citrus is an integral part of Florida’s state identity. Here are some fun and interesting facts about Florida citrus.
History of Citrus
- Citrus has been grown commercially in Florida since the mid-1800s. The first citrus was brought to the New World in 1493 by Christopher Columbus. In the mid-1500s one of the early Spanish explorers, most likely Ponce de Leon, planted the first orange trees around St. Augustine, Florida.
- Florida’s unique sandy soil and subtropical climate proved to be ideal for growing the seeds that the early settlers planted and have flourished ever since. Today it is a $9 billion industry, employing nearly 76,000 Floridians.
Florida is second only to Brazil in global orange juice production and the state remains the world’s leading producer of grapefruit.
- Florida growers produce several types of citrus, including oranges, grapefruit and speciality fruit including Temple oranges, tangerines and tangelos.
- The primary varieties of Florida oranges are Navel, Hamlin, Mid-sweet, and Valencia. The fresh orange season typically runs from October through June.
- The primary varieties of Florida grapefruit are Ruby Red, Flame, Ray Red and White Marsh Seedless. The fresh grapefruit season typically runs from September through June.
- Florida producers grow a handful of specialty fruit which are in season from October through April.
Market Share and Value
- Florida is second only to Brazil in global orange juice production and the state remains the world’s leading producer of grapefruit. Florida produces more than 80 percent of the United States’ supply of citrus, with major overseas export markets including Canada, Japan, France and the U.K.
- In most seasons, more than 80 percent of America’s orange juice is made from Florida-grown oranges. Nearly 87 percent of Florida citrus is processed into canned, chilled or frozen concentrated juices.
Acreage and Growing Areas
- In Florida, there are about 569,000 acres of citrus groves and more than 100 million citrus trees. Most citrus is grown in the southern two-thirds of the Florida peninsula, where there is low probability for a freeze. After a series of freezes in the 1980s, citrus growers gradually migrated southward from central and northern regions, although Polk County in the Central part of the state remains the top citrus producing county.
Growing and Harvesting
- To harvest the fruit once it’s ripe, workers carefully hand pick the fruit and place it in large canvas bags. The bags are then placed into specialized vehicles called “goats” that bring the harvested fruit from the grove to roadside tractor-trailers. Citrus grown for fresh consumption is hauled to packinghouses where it is washed, graded and packed. Citrus produced for juice is transported by truck to processing plants for juice extraction.
- There are about 40 citrus packinghouses and 20 citrus processing plants in Florida.
Economic Impact to the State of Florida
- The growing, packing, processing, and selling of citrus generates a nearly $9 billion per year impact on Florida’s economy. The citrus industry generates close to $1 billion in tax revenues helping support schools, highways, and healthcare services.
- Nearly 76,000 Floridians work in the citrus industry or a related business—this number exceeds the total labor force in 45 of Florida’s 67 counties.
- Citrus has a positive impact on Florida’s environment. A modern grove design allows for large areas of undeveloped land, providing an excellent wildlife habitat and a natural buffer between farmlands and urban development. University of Florida researchers recently observed more than 159 native species of wildlife within grove ecosystems. Research shows that for every acre of mature trees, 16.7 tons of oxygen is produced per year.