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Brazil losing small-medium sized citrus farms due to citrus greening

Staff Writer |
For over a decade now Brazil and Florida have been fighting a costly battle against citrus greening and its devastating impact on the citrus industry.

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Brazil has had the better of the fight so far, Tom Spreen told the Florida Citrus Commission on Wednesday, but only because it has more room to run.

Compared to Florida, South America's largest country has much more open land to plant new orange groves outside of the areas where greening remains rampant, he said. And large Brazilian growers are doing precisely that.

"This gives them an advantage to run away from the disease that we (in Florida) don't have," said Spreen.

Brazilian production is also declining because, like Florida, it is losing hundreds of small- and medium-sized growers, those holding 500 grove acres or less, he said.

While in both countries large growers are able to relocate, the smaller growers cannot afford the additional costs of grove caretaking measures to fight greening, Spreen said.

The total number of orange trees in the country declined 18 percent between 2012 and 2015, Spreen reported. During the same period, the number of citrus farms declined 38 percent.

"I do not think their tree numbers are going up, because so many people are exiting," he said. "Consequently Brazil will not likely return to a 400 million box orange production within the next decade," Spreen said.

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