Can Florida Citrus Keep the Momentum Growing?
The 2018-2019 Florida citrus season was all about getting back on track after the industry was derailed the year before by Hurricane Irma. The sector’s resilience through post-storm stress and ongoing pest-and-disease headaches helped yield a marked turnaround this past season, resulting in a 27-million box gain in oranges over the previous campaign’s output to ultimately finish at 71.6 million boxes. So, what’s in store for the 2019-2020 season? One industry pundit has an idea.
According to news reports, local citrus economist Elizabeth Steger foresees continued recovery and is projecting an orange crop harvest of 73 million boxes (give or take). Largely based on observations made during grove tours, Steger annually divulges her findings way out ahead of USDA. The government agency is slated to give its initial citrus crop estimate for 2019-2020 on October 10.
If Steger’s computation comes to fruition, it would be a 2% increase over last season. In providing such an early outlook, Steger’s report comes with a few stipulations. “The final crop will depend on how much the fruit grows this season depending on the rain, tree health condition, and greening severity,” Steger stated in her report. “Also, the fruit drop factor will affect the production. Our estimate ranges between 69 to 77 million boxes for the final and October’s potential production. We selected the numbers that represent our best estimate between the two possibilities.”
At this same time last year, Steger forecast an eyebrow-raising 77 million boxes of oranges for the 2018-2019 campaign.
Hurricanes aside, citrus greening has progressively taken a bite out of the Sunshine State’s signature crop output. The 1997-1998 season set the bar for orange crop harvest at 244 million boxes.