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Citrus growing in Florida still perseveres focuses on juice market

As has been reported for years now, Florida's citrus crop has been decreasing and things are not yet looking to be picking up. Centuries ago, growing and producing citrus began in Southeast Asia. The popularity caught on in Africa and slowly spread across Europe. By the time the Europeans started exploring and colonizing the world, citrus was all the rage.

Explorers and would-be conquerors brought them to the New World, where the Spanish seemed perfectly happy to grow a few oranges in La Florida for what they could eat. They were, of course, looking for real gold, not golden fruit. But when the British took over in the area, the idea of commercial orange production was given a go.

Most of these early attempts, according to the Florida Department of State, failed due to cold weather and disease. But, promote they still did, and growers took up the gauntlet. "Orange fever" began in the 1870s, long after Florida became a state in 1845. This was mostly due to heavy promotion by more business-minded people, now American.

Despite the exaggerated claims of promoters, developing a commercial grove was not easy. Many aspiring growers lacked money and the means of cultivation. Young trees required several years of care before they produced fruit in quantity, and the life of a citrus baron was much harder than expected. Despite this, they held on to hope by way of innovations when it came to shipping and revolutions in refrigeration methods. During the freezes of 1894 and 1895, many citrus producers lost everything and gave up. Others persisted by moving their productions further south in the state.

In the present day, citrus growing is still not a walk in the park. Bad weather and disease, including the disastrous citrus greening disease, are a feature now. All the while, orange production in California caught on. Florida gave up on producing oranges for direct consumption and concentrated on the juice market, since moisture in Florida produces a juicier orange.


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