By Clint Thompson
Georgia grower Joe Franklin believes the citrus market will stay profitable despite industry leaders expecting the state’s citrus acreage to double by the end of this year.
“The school systems are a good outlet for us,” Franklin said. “I was in Atlanta (recently). I’ve never seen so many people in my life. It’s like that in every big city up and down the east coast. It’ll be years and years and years before this market gets saturated.”
Franklin lives in Statesboro and has grown citrus in Bulloch County since 2010. While Franklin produces mainly satsuma oranges on his 43 acres, he also grows mandarins, grapefruit and lemons.
He markets his citrus to schools around southeast Georgia and sells through direct marketing, mail orders and local produce stands.
Franklin plans to add 5 acres this year and between 5 and 10 acres in 2021.
“Every year, we’ll just add a little bit more,” Franklin said. “We’re having success with it, and they’ve got new varieties coming out every year. That’s why we’re going to add more every year, to get these new varieties.”
Lindy Savelle, president of the Georgia Citrus Association, said by the end of 2023 there could be close to 50 million pounds of citrus coming out of Georgia. Despite the challenges that come with producing citrus, it’s a rapidly-growing industry in Georgia. Citrus is currently grown in only 39 South Georgia counties.
If temperatures get below freezing, the cold weather can potentially kill citrus trees — something Franklin knows all too well.
“Back in 2014, we lost some young trees. We’re about as far north as I would attempt to grow citrus, unless you have some type of protective covering or hoop house,” Franklin said. “But yeah, the weather will make you or break you. Our biggest challenge is cold weather in March right during the bloom or right before the bloom. If we can escape that, we’ll be good for 2020.”
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