Citrus Season in Florida Tumbles Toward Finish Line

Florida’s citrus season is a long one. But the 2019-2020 campaign is just about all but wrapped up. The continued battle with HLB, along with weather extremes and a global pandemic, has made this season another challenging one. And the latest crop estimate from USDA reflects some of the struggle, projecting another decrease for the state’s orange and grapefruit production.

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USDA’s June forecast has the Florida overall orange output at 67.65 million boxes, a 2 million box decrease from May’s estimate. Valencia oranges took a hit, down 5% from last month. Last season’s overall orange tally was 71 million boxes.

Florida grapefruit production also decreased from last month, but just slightly — from 4.9 million boxes to 4.89 million boxes. The amount, if it stands, would still be above the 4.51 million boxes produced during the 2018-2019 season.

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On a positive note, more consumers have been purchasing orange juice during the coronavirus outbreak for its health, immune system-boosting benefits. Bloomberg recently reported that retail sales of OJ spiked 46% in the U.S. during a four-week period ending on April 11. This is the highest retail sales number for orange juice since 2015, by the way.

“This forecast reflects the natural fluctuations we would expect over the course of a season and contributes to a multi-year trend indicating growers continue to make strides against citrus greening,” stated Shannon Shepp, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Citrus. “We are encouraged by year-over-year increases in both grapefruit and specialty citrus production and hope to see similar stability or gains in the orange category soon.”

The final citrus crop estimate for 2019-2020 is scheduled for July 10.

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