Citrus groves struggle as crops go unharvested amidst pandemic

Mother Nature started 2020 showing off her sweet side, putting “Citrus Sweet” crops on track for a 20% increase in harvest.

“The crops were excellent this year. We had a warm season, relatively dry season,” said owner of Citrus Sweet, George Winslow.

But now, you can see his losses on the ground — more than $1 million worth of rotten Valencia oranges at it’s Charlotte and Hendry County crops.

“The trees were stressed because of holding the previous crops for so long,” Winslow said.

Citrus Sweet says it’s processing plant partners, which squeeze oranges into orange juice, changed their protocols during the pandemic which delayed Winslow’s harvest.

So these oranges stayed on the trees, overripened and then fell off.

“This is what fruit looks like that should’ve been harvested,” he said. “It’s rotted and decayed.”

Winslow knows people who will see this story will wonder — why not invite people to come in and take the oranges?

The answer: his contract won’t allow it.

He says he’d rather give these oranges away than see them rot. Nonetheless, Winslow remains optimistic but realistic.

“This is not a one-season effect,” he said. “We’re going to have an effect from this over two seasons,” squeezing this issue onto our long list of pandemic problems.

While this is bad for business, Winslow says there’s no need to worry about a shortage of orange juice.

That’s good news since orange juice sales jumped 38% in March compared to the same time in 2019.

Reporter:Erika Jackson
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