Last month, the 2018-2019 Florida citrus season officially kicked off on a positive note thanks to a somewhat surprising crop forecast from USDA. Initial estimates were indicating a haul of 79 million boxes of oranges — a whopping 76% increase over last season’s Hurricane Irma-influenced final output of 44.95 million boxes. The latest citrus crop forecast from the government agency, however, shows a slight change with non-Valencia oranges down 2 million boxes, lowering the overall estimate to 77 million. Despite the subtraction, the harvest would still be a 71% improvement over last season.
The November forecast breaks down as follows: 32 million boxes of early, mid-season, and Navel varieties, plus 45 million boxes of the Valencia variety.
The outlook for Florida grapefruit also dimmed just a tad, dropping to 6.40 million boxes — a 300,000 box hit from last month. The output – if it holds – would still be 65% more than last year’s final tally.
Growers and stakeholders are hopeful the industry is rebounding not only from last year’s storm, but also maybe even from the decade-plus scourge of citrus greening. There’s still plenty of wood to chop in that regard. During the 1997-1998 season, a record-setting 49.5 million boxes of Florida grapefruit were harvested. That same season was a banner one for oranges, too, at 244 million boxes.
Reacting to the latest forecast figures, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam stated in a news release: “We’ll continue to support the industry as it rebuilds after Hurricane Irma and continues to battle citrus greening.”
USDA will continue to update its citrus crop forecast every month until July. The next report is scheduled to release on December 11.