Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 by tamara
Two Hundred and forty million boxes!!! What in the hell are we going to do with that much fruit? That was the cry that went up from the industry not long after I came to work for Mutual.
Folks on the river were talking about taking out every other Grapefruit tree just to help keep prices up couldn’t sell it for breakeven prices. Oranges were selling for 35 and 40 cents a pound, sometimes you couldn’t get that. All fruit prices were down, growers all met in different places then, the barber shop in their local towns or at different restaurant’s, like Jacks in Mineola or The Red Wing in Groveland and other places around the state discussing the season and what deals were out there and who sold what to whom.
There was also a lot of I won’t say down right lying about prices, maybe exaggeration is a better term. You see when a buyer goes to a particular grower and buys his fruit, he gives him the best deal of any of the rest, but he has to keep his mouth shut because HE IS THE ONLY ONE TO GET THAT DEAL. You don’t want to run your mouth and ruin the market you see!
The crooks were out there also, buying fruit for high prices and never planning on paying off or planning to steal at least a load or two to help keep overhead down. My good friend over at bond and license Jim Ellis has a saying, “A grower will sell to someone in prison stripes and handcuffs if he offers him another nickel” so he can tell his compatriots he sold at a higher price. I know this is true because I have done just that!!
The processing plants were all running at full speed all over the state, there was very little not from concentrate to speak of just recon and a little bit of fresh squeezed. There were fresh juice machines in some of the supermarkets and you could get your oranges juiced right there and out the door you went with fresh squeezed juice. Packing housed were also running hard the area that I worked in the North had 14 houses from Eustis to Crescent City. Harvesting crews were plentiful a lot of domestic and some off shore labor but all in all things were running pretty smooth. No one knew about greening, or HLB. We did have a med fly every now and again and decline was a problem. Caretaking cost and harvesting cost were not too far out of line from the prices.
Look at the industry now, we are trying to find enough fruit to run are processing plants and packing houses and caretaking cost are at levels we never dreamed they would be. We have greening, canker black spot on and on it goes. What in the world are we going to do? We have trade issues, labor issues water problems and more rules and regulations than growers can say grace over. The old heads are just about gone and some of us who use to be the young guys are getting a little long in the tooth also but still we go ahead and meet at some of the same places and even though the topics have changed they are just a relative today as they were in the 70s. Growers are still planting Citrus trees, still raising families on the income from groves, yes it may be a little harder but the industry is still here. The question was what are we as an industry going to do? The industry will keep on fighting; we may not ever get back where we were in the so called glory days but who’s to say. WE have a good and strong industry and as I have said in the past we might not shake out the same after a few years but the industry will survive. Maybe again one day we will wonder what are we going to do with all this fruit?