UF Survey: Citrus Land Values Up For First Time Since 1990

Cindy Spence

John Reynolds (352) 392-1845 ext. 412

GAINESVILLE — The value of Florida’s citrus groves has increased for the first time since 1990, an annual University of Florida survey of land values shows.

The 1999 Florida Land Value Survey indicates that the value of agricultural land has increased or remained steady in all regions of the state, said UF agricultural economist John Reynolds, who has conducted the annual survey for UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences since 1985.

Improved grapefruit prices are responsible for the increase in value for groves, said Reynolds, noting that 1999 is the first year since 1990 that citrus land has not declined in value.

“It was encouraging and interesting to see that across all agricultural categories, land values were up this year,” Reynolds said. “That’s the first time since the late 1980s that all categories have improved, and that’s a positive note for agriculture.”

Last year, the survey showed the value of groves decreasing because of an oversupply of fruit, with grapefruit growers being hardest hit. This year, with supplies down, the value of grapefruit groves increased 23.8 percent in the South region and 6.7 percent in the Central region.

“Prices for grapefruit increased this year, and the better return means higher land values,” Reynolds said.

The value of citrus land still has not rebounded, however, to its value at the beginning of the decade. This year’s increases pushed orange grove land to almost $7,000 per acre and grapefruit groves to more than $3,500 per acre. By contrast, in 1990, most groves were selling for $10,000 to $13,000 per acre.

A large supply of citrus and lower prices are still keeping citrus land values down, Reynolds said.

“Freezes in the 1980s wiped out thousands of acres of citrus in Central Florida and pushed fruit prices and land values higher,” Reynolds said. “But growers replanted, and now those groves are online and producing; there’s a lot more citrus to be sold now.”

For purposes of the survey, Reynolds divides the state based on agricultural production into four regions: Northwest, Northeast, Central and South. Reynolds also collects data for Southeast Florida — Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties –because of the impact of urbanization on agricultural land values in the region.

The pressure of urbanization has much agricultural land poised for a transition into use for homesites and commercial development. The value of this transitional land within five miles of cities was almost three times higher in the Southeast region than in other regions because of the limited amount of undeveloped land remaining in that region.

However, in all regions, the value of transitional land in metropolitan counties was two to three times higher than in nonmetropolitan counties.

The value of irrigated and nonirrigated cropland and improved and unimproved pastureland increased in all regions of the state, although agricultural land values vary widely from region to region and even within regions.

The value of farm woods increased 6 to 7 percent in the Northwest and the Northeast.

The average value of citrus land was higher in the South than in the Central region, but the value of other types of agricultural land was higher in the Central region than in other regions. The lowest agricultural land values were reported in the Northwest.

Survey respondents generally were optimistic that land values would be slightly higher in the coming year. But Reynolds said that some respondents might answer questions differently if asked today rather than when the survey was taken in May.

“Prospects for several row crops are not as good as they were in May, and they don’t look very good for next year,” Reynolds said.

The survey also shows:

  • The value of irrigated land used for crops increased 7 to 8 percent in the South and Northwest regions, 4.5 percent in the Northeast and about 2 percent in the Central region.
  • The value of nonirrigated cropland increased 9.4 percent in the Central region, 7.5 percent in the Northwest, 3.3 percent in the South and only 0.2 percent in the Northeast.
  • The value of improved pastureland increased almost 10 percent in the Central region, 5 to 6 percent in the Northwest and Northeast regions and 1.3 percent in the South.
  • The value of unimproved pastureland increased 7.2 percent in the Northeast, 5.9 percent in the Central region, 3 percent in the Northwest and 1.1 percent in the South.
  • The value of orange groves increased 1.1 percent in the South and 0.3 percent in the Central region.

The 231 survey respondents included property appraisers, farm lenders, real estate brokers, farm managers, land investors, Cooperative Extension Service agents, federal farm-assistance and conservation service staff and others who develop and maintain information about rural land values.

– 30 –