When USDA released its initial 2016-2017 Florida citrus forecast, the 70 million all orange box count was a dose of reality as to where the industry currently stands. Fast forward to the end of the year, and the tepid projection wasn’t too far from reality. The final count settled at 68.7 million boxes (33 million boxes of early, midseason, Navel, and Temple varieties; plus 35.7 million boxes of Valencias) — a 200,000 box bump from June’s outlook.
“Ending the season on a positive note is a big deal because it shows there is still investment in Florida’s signature crop,” stated Shannon Shepp, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Citrus. “It takes quite serious effort to produce every single piece of fruit. Every additional box shows promise for Florida Citrus.”
During the season, the forecast figures fluctuated up and down several times, never straying too far from the initial prediction. The total is down from last season’s haul of 81.5 million boxes. With the crop escaping a lashing from Hurricane Matthew earlier in the season, plus no major freeze/frost events, HLB remains the main reason behind the depressed output. To put this season’s total in perspective, the all-orange output during the 1997-1998 season was a record 244 million boxes.
Regarding grapefruit, the 2016-2017 count rounded out at 7.8 million boxes. This, like the oranges, was down markedly from the previous season (10.85 million boxes). During the 1997-1998 season, grapefruit clocked in at 49.5 million boxes.
The initial USDA report for the 2017-2018 season is scheduled to release on October 12. In the meantime, growers and researchers continue to search for answers to the HLB scourge.