Citrus Expansion in Southwest Alabama

Clint ThompsonAlabama, Citrus

By Clint Thompson

One Alabama Extension agent is optimistic about his region’s citrus production expanding in the near future.

Jacob Kelley, regional Extension agent in Southwest Alabama, discussed the future of citrus in his coverage area, which consists mostly of satsuma mandarins.

“At times it seems like (acres are) going down, but I will tell you I’ve had a lot of interest lately, younger guys coming into the picture, wanting to plant an acre, two acres of satsumas,” Kelley said.  “They’re getting a lot of help from the guys who have been doing it a long time. They’ll talk to a lot of new and beginning farmers that are interested in satsumas, and a lot of them have already done their homework. They’ve already called the major players in the area, asked them a bunch of questions.

“I think we’re going to be good to go here in about five or six years. I think we’re going to have some increase in sales.”

New Markets

Much of that optimism is attributed to Alabama producers beginning to take advantage of markets in other states, namely Florida.

“They’ve gotten involved in the Cold Hardy Citrus Association in the Panhandle of Florida. They’ve marketed some fruit over there,” Kelley said. “Fresh sales are not what they used to be in Florida with citrus greening and hurricanes and all of the things they’ve been going through lately. More of them are turning to juicing and things like that. That opens the door for Alabama to slide in there.

“Georgia’s probably ahead of us. We have to be realistic about that, but I do have some guys that are sliding into that market. I do think that’s going to be a future partnership that will benefit all of the growers in the area. I think we’ll really be able to move some fruit into Florida in the coming years as we start ramping up production.”

Kelley said some growers are currently marketing their fruit at more local outlets, mostly to area schools. However, there is some fruit being taken north to larger hubs like Birmingham, Memphis, Nashville and Atlanta.