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  • By The Financial District

Florida Farmers Battle Citrus Blight Brought By Chinese Ship

With Florida's citrus farmers facing some of their toughest ever times due to the combined effect of a spreading tree blight and the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, innovation appears to be the key to sustaining exports to Japan, one of their key markets, Kyodo News reported.


Photo Insert: Dan Richey, a 63-year-old third-generation farmer, has been exporting to Japan, Florida's largest market for grapefruit, from a large citrus farm in Vero Beach for over four decades.



A long-standing global epidemic that kills fruit trees compounded by pandemic-triggered inflation has created multiple problems for farmers in one of the world's leading citrus-growing regions.


This year, shipments could be the worst since 1970. The scourge was brought to Florida by a Chinese vessel two decades ago, experts affirmed, Mainichi Japan also reported.



Dan Richey, a 63-year-old third-generation farmer, has been exporting to Japan, Florida's largest market for grapefruit, from a large citrus farm in Vero Beach for over four decades. He says he is determined to continue doing so.


Trouble arrived in Florida via a Chinese cargo vessel and Florida's orange trees have been infected by "citrus greening disease," which had been spreading worldwide.


All the news: Business man in suit and tie smiling and reading a newspaper near the financial district.

Once infected, branches become deformed, and the fruit falls off. Before long, the trees wither and die. Even now, there is no established cure for the disease, although it has spread to Asia, Africa, and other regions. Trees must simply be cut down.


After liberalization began in 1971, exports of grapefruit to Japan grew dramatically, reaching a peak of 230,000 tons in 2003-2004. However, in the 2020-2021 season, shipments dropped to less than 7,000 tons, and now the double blow of soaring labor and fuel costs are compounding the problem.


Market & economy: Market economist in suit and tie reading reports and analysing charts in the office located in the financial district.

Richey's farm and other enterprises are seeking ways to revive Florida's citrus industry. He has launched a pilot project with Coca-Cola Co. to protect young trees from disease in cooperation with Takasago International Corp. in Tokyo, which uses essential oil extracted from citrus fruits as a raw material for fragrances.


They apply red ink to the leaves of tree saplings to prevent insects that carry the disease from approaching. Richey says they are aiming to create a system that produces fruit using sustainable farming methods with techniques such as covering the ground with tarpaulin sheets that reduce evaporation and conserve water.



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