For the Florida citrus industry, last year was considered a rebound season after the big blow Hurricane Irma dealt in September 2017. And it was. The 2019-2020 citrus season is now officially underway in the Sunshine State with USDA’s initial citrus crop estimate in the books. Pre-season predictions from citrus economist Elizabeth Steger pegged the orange crop at 73 million boxes – a touch above last season’s final tally of 71 million boxes and change. So, what do USDA forecasters see?
The government agency is estimating all oranges to come in at 74 million boxes, which forecasters break down as 42 million boxes of Valencias plus 32 million boxes of early/mid-season varieties.
“This incremental increase is good news for the industry as we continue to recover from Hurricane Irma and the devastating effects of citrus greening,” Mike Sparks, Executive VP/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual, said in response to the USDA’s outlook. “We believe that this number – if it holds throughout the year – will strike a nice balance of getting the processors the oranges they need while firming up prices to the Florida citrus grower.”
In addition, USDA is raising the stakes — just at tad — on the grapefruit haul, increasing it to 4.6 million boxes over last season’s total that came in at about 4.5 million boxes. Recently, an announcement was made indicating what is to be the state’s largest grapefruit planting since the onset of citrus greening.
“This reflects what we’ve been hearing from growers,” Shannon Shepp, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Citrus, added. “Florida Citrus is here to stay.”
The next citrus crop forecast is scheduled to release on Nov. 8.