Changes at Tropicana plant in Fort Pierce could lead to job losses

Published: Jul. 19, 2022 at 5:06 PM EDT
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A troubling sign for the local citrus industry. WPTV learned about changes on the horizon at a major citrus plant in Fort Pierce.

If you look at current job openings, there are none listed for the Tropicana plant in Fort Pierce. WPTV learned Tuesday that the plant itself will be shedding jobs sometime in the future.

Tropicana has contacted St. Lucie County to tell them that juicing operations in Fort Pierce will be moved across the state to their Bradenton plant.

According to the county's economic development council, there are 258 employees working here at last count.

WPTV learned that the plant will not entirely shut down. It will still be used for storage, packaging and distribution.

As to how many people might be laid off and when, we don't have a timetable or any exact numbers.

A statement from Tropicana said:

"The Fort Pierce facility will remain open and an important part of our manufacturing footprint. We will not be processing fruit there for the 2023 season and are consolidating that work to our Bradenton plant. Unfortunately, there is a small portion of our full time team who will be impacted by this change and we are committed to offering them support in finding other work, whether within our existing operations or elsewhere."

The citrus industry has been struggling in recent years..The final forecast for the 2021-22 growing season showed about 41 million boxes of oranges in Florida.

While it was a slight uptick from the previous month, it still marks the lowest production levels in Florida since the late 1930s.

And it’s a far cry from 20 years ago. Back in 2002, Tropicana products spent $23 million to expand their Fort Pierce plant and added 36 employees at the time.

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