Much of this produce is sold under the “Fresh from Florida” retail program, part of the Florida Agricultural Promotional Campaign, created in 1990 and maintained by the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Participants have access to a variety of promotional tools, including the program’s increasingly well-known logo and point-of-sale materials. According to “Fresh from Florida” figures, more than 60 retail chains and 13,000 stores took part in the 2013 campaign, and though numbers have yet to be released for 2014, state officials hoped 2014 and 2015 would bring even more exposure to the program.
Some of this locally grown product is sold at the Miami Produce Center. Primarily a wholesale operation, the center opened in 1938 as the Dade County Market. The site encompasses nine acres, including a motel, parking lots, two truck stops, and restaurant. However, the market has been steadily shrinking, and most of Miami’s large wholesalers and shippers have moved out of the market in favor of more updated facilities. Although the produce center no longer draws business from major foodservice companies and supermarket chains, it still includes a few smaller produce suppliers.
Despite devastating losses in the Sunshine State’s citrus industry due to citrus greening or HLB (Huanglongbing disease), Florida still outperforms all other states in citrus production, accounting for 65 percent of total U.S. citrus domestic supply.
Oranges, grapefruit, and other citrus fruits are still a billion-dollar business for Florida growers, despite the nearly century-old HLB disease, which was first discovered in China back in 1919 according to a 2006 article found on the University of Florida Extension Service’s website. And although Asian citrus psyllids were found in Florida as early as 1998, the first confirmed case of citrus greening was not found until seven years later in August 2005, in southern Miami-Dade County.
Within two months, the contagion spread from Miami-Dade to Broward, Palm Beach, and Hendry counties and by June of the following year, 2006, a total of 12 counties had confirmed cases of HLB in citrus groves. Incidence continued to climb, and by 2009, a total of 33 counties had tested positive for citrus greening cases, dooming thousands of trees across the state and dramatically affecting production.
Since 2006, citrus greening has cost Florida’s citrus industry 7,000 jobs and $4.5 billion in lost revenues. Yet University of Florida scientists recently discovered a chemical used to treat gout in humans that may be able to halt the spread of the disease. Although some believe this could be the “silver bullet” to rid the state of citrus greening once and for all, it could take five to seven years of testing before the treatment is approved for commercial use.