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ORLANDO-This year’s low prices paid by processing plants to orange and grapefruit growers in Florida have lowered the value of land used for citrus cultivation by 11% for oranges and 4.3% for grapefruit.

That compares with a 25% to 28% increase in the same dirt a year ago, according to a new study by the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL.

In Central Florida, for example, the average dirt on which to grow orange trees is valued at $6,140 per acre (14 cents per sf) and $4,244 per acre (nine cents per sf) for grapefruit tree land.

But if that same land were sold by growers for commercial development, the average price might be up to 10 times higher, depending on location and acreage size, independent brokers tell GlobeSt.com.

“Those numbers back up what growers in metro Orlando have known since the great back-to-back freezes of 1985 and 1986,” a longtime broker and citrus grove owner tells GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity. “What they have known is that they can make far more money selling their land to commercial, industrial and residential developers than continuing to work it themselves as an active grove.”

Pasture and crop land values rose from 3% to 17%, according to the study. Improved and unimproved pasture land increased 6% to 12%. In South Florida, orange grove value decreased by 9.4%; grapefruit dirt dropped by 10%.

The survey studied groves from Marion County on the north to Polk and Osceola counties on the south.

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