Huanglongbing (HLB), commonly known as citrus greening disease, is a disease spread by the Asian citrus psyllid. After this sap sucking bug has fed on the stems and leaves of infected trees, it carries the bacteria that causes the disease to the next tree it feeds on. The disease eventually kills the tree, but before that HLB causes the fruit of infected trees to be green, bitter and deformed, making it undesirable to consumers and no longer valuable to the citrus grower.
HLB Detected Across the Globe
In southern China, HLB was first detected in 1919 and is believed to have originated there. And while Asian citrus psyllid has been in Florida since at least 1998, the disease wasn’t detected until 2005. The top orange-producing country of Brazil has been fighting HLB since 2004, but this disease is a worldwide problem.
Quick Facts from Chemical & Engineering News:
- Since 2004, HLB has eliminated 52.6 million sweet orange trees in Brazil, a 31 percent reduction in area.
- China’s top-producing Jiangxi Province has lost 25 percent of its groves as of the end of 2018.
- In the past decade in the U.S., HLB has caused a 72 percent decline in the production of oranges used for juice and other products.
The US: Inside the Numbers
In a country-wide poll, a recent study found that the number one reason consumers choose not to use grocery delivery or pickup services is due to fear of receiving poor produce (30 percent of study participants).
For the 2017-2018 season, the utilized citrus production totaled 6.13 million tons. This is down 20 percent from the previous season (shown in the yellow graph above) and 66 percent lower than the 1997-1998 record high season of 17.8 million tons.
As of the 2017-2018 season, the United States has 697,900 bearing acres of citrus, with 400,900 being in Florida. At one point, Florida produced more than 70 percent of the citrus supply for the United States and is the world’s second top producer of orange juice, just behind Brazil.
The Economic Impact in Florida
For the 2017-2018 season, Florida accounted for 36 percent of the utilized citrus production in the U.S. This is down 37 percent from the 2016-2017 season. The season before HLB was first detected (2003-2004), Florida was producing 19.21 tons of citrus per acre. For the 2017-2018 season, they are down to just 5.55 tons per acre.
As of 2016, HLB has caused more than US$4 billion and 30,000 jobs to be lost in Florida’s economy. Today it is still a US$9 billion industry, employing nearly 76,000 people. There are an estimated 74 million citrus trees across Florida, 90 percent of those are estimated to be infected with HLB.
For the 2017-2018 season, California was the top utilized citrus producer in the U.S., accounting for 59 percent of the market. For the same season, the number of bearing acres totaled 265,300. While California’s utilized production may have topped Florida’s, their production was actually down 7 percent from the previous season. Today, California’s citrus industry is valued around US$7 billion.
While California’s citrus trees are still widely untouched by HLB, it is important to bring a solution to market to stop further decline. Learn more about how MitoGrow is working to stop the spread of HLB by clicking here.
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