The Florida citrus industry is estimated to have a $9.3 billion economic impact for the state. Approximately 80,000 full-time equivalent jobs (grove employees, seasonal pickers, haulers, processors, packers, and managers) are involved, earning a combined annual wage of $2.7 billion or about 1.5 percent of the state’s wage income. Most of the fruit is harvested by hand although harvesting machines have been developed and are used for harvest of about 5 percent of the processing fruit. Nearly all of the hand harvesters are transient labor, mostly from Mexico or Haiti. Citrus is a major segment of Florida’s agricultural industry, accounting for an estimated 21.1 percent of cash farm receipts in 2005 (Norberg, 2008).
Cultivation of citrus is believed to have begun in Southeast Asia roughly 4,000 years ago. Trade and cultivation moved slowly west to Northern Africa, the Mediterranean, and then to southern Europe by the Middle Ages. Christopher Columbus is thought to have brought the first citrus seeds on his second voyage to the New World in 1493. The Spanish explorer, Ponce de Leon, is credited with planting the first orange trees near St. Augustine, Florida sometime between 1513 and 1565. French Count Odet Philippe first introduced grapefruit to Florida in 1806. He later planted the first grapefruit grove near Tampa in 1823 (Webber et al., 1967; Florida Citrus Mutual, 2009; UNCTAD, 2009).