Ask a Florida citrus grower the last time they were confident going into a new season, and you might get a blank stare. However, if an early pre-season crop prediction is any indication, things might be looking up for the struggling crop and its producers — maybe.
While USDA is still nearly two months away from divulging its opening 2017-2018 citrus season forecast, independent citrus economics consultant Elizabeth Steger has released her preliminary prognostication. And by the looks of it, the news is positive. Following computations, Steger is expecting 33.4 million boxes for early-midseason fruit, plus 42.1 million boxes of Valencia, bringing the 2017-2018 Florida all-orange total to 75.5 million boxes.
This estimate is quite a bit higher than her last (60.5 million boxes for 2016-2017). Last season’s total eventually settled at 68.7 million boxes. For the 2015-2016 season, Steger overshot by 12 million boxes (93.5 million boxes vs. actual 81.5 million).
According to Steger’s latest report, a recent tour of groves revealed healthy-looking trees holding fruit. “Even though our tree sampling is not perfect due to a lack of resources, we were able to predict trends up or down over the last 25 years. We use different methods to confirm our estimate with a fair assessment of the values,” she states in the report.
Due to the devastating effects of HLB, Florida’s current citrus production numbers are a shadow of what they once were. Compare today’s totals to Florida’s all-orange output during the 1997-1998 season (244 million boxes), and you can clearly see the situation for what it is.
The initial USDA estimate for the 2017-2018 citrus season is scheduled to release on October 12.