By Jessica Creagan
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- Local growers are nearly two months into the citrus harvest and the outlook so far this year is sweet.
Doug Bournique, executive vice president of the Indian River Citrus League, said the season is off to a good start and projected numbers are within three percent of last year.
"The brix, or the internal sugar content of the fruit, is good this year and the fruit seems to be about the same size as last year, which is great for growers," Mr. Bournique said.
"The quality of the fruit is very good and we just have to hope that Mother Nature will give us an average winter with a little bit of rainfall," he said.
"We can handle temperatures into the 40s, but we don't need anything into the 20s.We just need some cool, dry days and that will be a good harvest," Mr. Bournique said.
The citrus industry is a huge industry in the Treasure Coast, bringing in approximately $1 billion in economic impact, including fresh fruit, uses for by products and workforce.
"Demand for essence of oranges and grapefruit is increasing, just look at the ingredients lists. It's used for perfumes, hair shampoos, even liquors," Mr. Bournique said.
"Everyone wants that fresh, natural aroma of citrus," he said.
Although citrus is widely sought after in Florida and the United States, the international market is where most of the citrus grown and packed in Indian River County ends up, Mr. Bournique said.
"Last year, 80 percent of the harvest was shipped overseas," he said.
Earlier this month, Gov. Rick Scott led an economic development mission to Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, Japan, and while there, he visited a Japanese wholesale market to highlight the beginning of Florida's citrus season.
"It is great to be here in Japan and see the reach Florida citrus has around the world," Gov. Scott said in a press release.
According to Florida Citrus Mutual, an information clearinghouse for citrus growers and packers, the citrus industry has an annual economic impact of $9 billion, employs more than 75,000 people and represents two-thirds of the U.S. citrus market.
The Indian River Citrus League office is located at 7925 20th St., Vero Beach. For more information about the Indian River Citrus League, call (800) 435-5727 or visit www.ircitrusleague.org.