When Hurricane Ian roared ashore in Southwest Florida at the end of September, all bets were off for the upcoming citrus season. Initial crop estimates from USDA were already on the way for 2022-2023. Those forecast numbers were drastically down — even without accounting for the storm. Fast forward several months later, and the latest crop forecast is having growers and stakeholders ask: How low will it go?
The January report from USDA indicates the all-orange estimate at 18 million boxes (7 million early, mid-season varieties, plus 11 million Valencias). The latest total is down 2 million boxes from last month’s forecast. “If realized, this will be 56% less than last season’s final production,” reads the report.
What’s even harder to grasp? Effects from hurricanes Ian and Nicole — along with continued HLB pressure — are still playing out in groves.
Here are some other stats that stand out from USDA’s latest forecast:
- Final droppage of non-Valencia oranges (excluding Navels) at 76% is above the maximum.
- Current fruit size for Valencia oranges is below the minimum and is projected to be below the minimum at harvest. Current droppage is above the maximum and projected to be above the maximum at harvest.
The prospects for the state’s grapefruit haul also took another hit. USDA is estimating grapefruit to come in at 1.5 million boxes. That is down another 300,000 boxes from last month and would be 55% less than last season’s final tally.
USDA’s next citrus crop forecast will be Feb. 8.