Chairman Johnson: Coming Together to Support Florida Citrus at Home and Abroad

As growers, we are no strangers to adversity –natural disasters, pests, and disease are all a part of daily life. But it is how we respond to these challenges that matter most.  Last weekend’s sub-freezing temperatures impacted growers throughout several citrus-producing counties. Our industry acted quickly to ensure growers are able to harvest as much of the affected fruit as possible while still maintaining quality standards. Thursday, the Florida Citrus Commission voted unanimously to enact an emergency rule lowering the minimum ratio of total soluble solids to anhydrous citric acid requirement to 8.5 to 1 and a minimum Brix of 8 for fresh and processed oranges. This temporary rule is in effect now and will remain in place through March 20. Additionally, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order on Thursday to assist the agricultural industry with its response to and recovery from the inclement weather.

When it comes down to it, our industry is a team. Growers, processors, packers – we are all in this together. Our collaboration is what keeps us going even when Mother Nature may not be so kind.

As recovery efforts get underway, the Department of Citrus is continuing to ensure that Florida Citrus remains top of mind for consumers, including those living on the other side of the globe.

Florida Grapefruit continues to be highly sought after throughout Asia and Europe. With many countries honoring February as National Grapefruit Month, this time of year is especially important in terms of marketing programs promoting the fruit to consumers.

In Canada, Florida Grapefruit sampling at retailers allows consumers to try before they buy. This helps customers who may have had different origins of grapefruit in the past taste the difference Florida provides.

In the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Sweden, consumers will see Florida Grapefruit featured in retail promotions at several retailers.  Florida Grapefruit was also recently featured during a partnership with the Foreign Agricultural Services office in London as part of the U.S. Embassy’s USA Week at one of the city’s best fine dining restaurants. Diners enjoyed fresh Florida Grapefruit as part of two starter salads prepared by third-year culinary students at Westminster Kingsway Catering College.

In France, Florida Grapefruit is being promoted at retailers, including through a partnership with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Fresh From Florida program. Last month, social media influencers were encouraged to share some sunshine with Florida on Blue Monday, which has been dubbed as the most depressing day of the year due to the drab weather and long winter nights.

In South Korea, in addition to several retail and foodservice promotions, influential cooking celebrity Ms. Bo-Eun Lee is sharing Florida Grapefruit recipes with her many fans on social media. She will highlight the factors that set Florida Grapefruit apart from its competitors, including great taste and a thin peel and encourage sales.

In Japan, where the majority of Florida Grapefruit is exported, Florida Grapefruit has been featured in retail, foodservice, and online promotions. Additionally, a dedication ceremony was held for Florida Grapefruit last month at a famous shrine where millions of students and their families visit annually to pray for academic success. The dedication helped raise awareness of the health benefits of Florida Grapefruit – perfect for students busy studying for exams.

The Department also continues to promote Florida Citrus in the U.S. The Department’s eCommerce program has driven $35 million in attributable sales of Florida Orange Juice since its start in July. This exceeds the Department’s annual goal of $30 million.

Steve Johnson is Chairman of the Florida Citrus Commission, which oversees the Florida Department of Citrus. He is the owner and general manager of Johnson Harvesting, Inc., based in Wauchula, FL.