Country of Origin Labeling legislation would function as a protectionist measure and damage the U.S. fruit and vegetable industry, says Dave Mixon, vice president of DNE World Fruit Sales of Fort Pierce, Fla.

Mixon, addressing the annual meeting of the Texas Produce Association recently in South Padre Island, said a key element in increased consumption of citrus products has been year-round availability.

“Per capita consumption of citrus in the United States has been flat,” he said, “but imports continue to take a bigger share of the market. Within five years, 33 percent to 37 percent of citrus demand in the United States will be imported.”

Growth demand in other countries, however, may offer opportunities. “The United States is involved in long-term export programs. No single country can produce enough citrus to meet demand every week of the year. That means we have opportunities for trade.”

Mixon said growth in world citrus production continued in the last decade of the 20th Century. He said the industry must work to ensure consumer protection and strengthen consumer confidence in products.

“And we must understand what it means to be involved in a global industry. We can't be protectionist in this business and succeed. Consumers buy on price and appearance, not country of origin.”

Education need

He says the industry must do a better job of educating consumers to the benefits of citrus. Currently, most education comes from retail displays.

Mixon said the Clementine is leading the growth in the citrus industry.

e-mail: rsmith@primediabusiness.com