This article presents the cost of production per acre for processed oranges in southwest Florida during 2014/15. The cost estimates below do not represent any individual operation. Instead, their purpose is to serve as a benchmark for the Florida citrus industry. Typical users of these estimates include growers, consultants, property appraisers, and researchers.
A total of twelve growers participated in the data collection process. Eight growers attended a meeting at the UF/IFAS Extension Hendry County office in June of 2015, while another four growers submitted their responses by mail. The number of acres managed by their combined operations accounted for approximately 32,400 acres. The acreage for oranges in southwest Florida during 2014 was estimated at 265,927 (USDA/NASS 2014). Thus, the combined acreage of the surveyed growers represents 12% of the total acreage devoted to oranges in that region.
Growers brought a completed survey form to the meeting that had been distributed to them beforehand. The questionnaire asked growers to provide annual, per acre costs, by program, for a typical irrigated, mature grove (10+ years old), including resets. By surveying growers regarding the costs of their caretaking programs—as opposed to surveying chemical companies to obtain the retail cost of materials—the figures reported here better reflect growers' costs since they typically get discounts for bulk purchases that would not be accounted for otherwise.
The data collection process at the UF/IFAS Extension Hendry County office was completely anonymous and confidential. During the meeting, growers operated a remote-control device that allowed them to 'click-in' the costs for each caretaking activity included in the survey. One of the main advantages of this surveying methodology was that growers did not need to submit their completed forms, which is useful to ensure their anonymity; there is no way to trace the answers back to any individual operation. The estimates below were obtained by averaging the responses submitted by the group of participating growers.
Table 1 shows the costs of production by program. The estimates include both the cost of materials and the costs associated with their application. The total cost for weed management—which includes chemical and mechanical mowing, as well as herbicides—was $248.19 per acre. At $666.00 per acre, foliar sprays were the largest expense in grove caretaking. Fertilizer was the second largest expense at $486.96 per acre. Citrus Health Management Areas (CHMA) sprays accounted for $20.55 per acre. The expense for pruning was $31.50 per acre, while that for irrigation was $198.14 per acre. Adding all the costs listed above, the cultural cost of growing oranges for processing during 2014/15 without tree replacement was $1,651.33 per acre.
Growers were also asked to provide details regarding their reset practices, including the number of trees replaced in their groves. On average, growers replaced nine trees per acre during 2014/15. The total cost of tree replacement, including tree removal, site preparation, and care of the reset trees was estimated at $346.77 per acre. Adding the reset cost to the cultural cost yields a total production cost with tree replacement of $1,998.10 per acre.
The Florida citrus industry currently faces the challenges imposed by huanglongbing (HLB, citrus greening); growers have responded to the disease by adjusting their production inputs to varying degrees. Thus, there are currently different levels of spending in grove caretaking. To provide a range for those levels without disclosing individual grower data, we performed the computations presented in Table 2. This table shows the average cost of production per acre and standard deviation for the two largest expenses: foliar sprays and fertilizer. All the other costs included in Table 1 are combined in Table 2 under "Other Costs". Column 1 shows the average costs while columns 2 and 3 are obtained by subtracting and adding the value of the standard deviation from column 1, respectively. As shown at the bottom of Table 2, the low (high) level of caretaking for processed oranges totals $1,465.91 ($2,579.14).
Table 3 shows the total costs growers incurred during 2014/15; that is, the cultural cost of production with tree replacement presented in Table 1 plus management, regulatory, and opportunity costs. Thus, the total cost of production for processed oranges totals $2,444.41 per acre. Based on this estimate, the break-even prices per box for different levels of yield are presented in Table 4. Break-even prices are calculated on an on-tree and delivered-in basis. The latter assumes harvesting costs per box are $2.55, which is based on the results of the survey entitled 2014/15 Picking, Roadsiding, and Hauling Charges for Florida Citrus. The calculations in Table 4 also include the FDOC assessment of $0.20 per box for the 2014/15 season. Thus, for example, the on-tree and delivered-in break-even prices for covering the total costs of production with yield at 250 boxes per acre are $1.60 and $2.05 per pound solids, respectively.
This article presented a summary of the 2014/15 costs of production for processed oranges in southwest Florida. The methodology chosen to collect the data was different from that used in previous years and consisted of surveying growers directly. The current approach more accurately reflects growers' costs in the era of HLB, which has introduced greater variation in the levels of spending on caretaking practices across citrus growers. The total cost of production for processed oranges with tree replacement in 2014/15 was $2,444.41 per acre.
United States Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA/NASS). 2014. Commercial Citrus Inventory: Preliminary Report. Maitland, FL: Florida Department of Agricultural Services.
Cultural costs of production per acre for processed oranges in southwest Florida, 2014/15.
Different levels of caretaking for processed oranges in southwest Florida, 2014/15.
Total costs of production per acre for processed oranges in southwest Florida, 2014/15.
Break-even price per box for processed oranges in southwest Florida, 2014/15.