Florida Citrus Shortfall Mounts Even More in Latest Crop Forecast
The impacts of two hurricane strikes and an ongoing battle with HLB continue to take a huge toll on Florida citrus. This season promises to be among the lowest output for oranges and grapefruit on record for the Sunshine State. The latest citrus crop forecast from USDA puts another exclamation point on that fact.
USDA’s February report comes in at 16 million boxes of all oranges, down another 11% from last month. That’s broken down as 6 million of the early, mid-season varieties plus 10 million Valencia.
Fruit drop and size estimates for the early varieties finished up last month. The report says current fruit size for Valencias is “below the minimum and is projected to be below the minimum at harvest.” In addition, “current droppage is above the maximum and projected to be above maximum at harvest.”
Early forecasts predicted the 2022-2023 citrus season was going to be a struggle — even before the hurricanes struck. Now, if the latest numbers hold, it will be 61% less than last season’s final production.
The February forecast for grapefruit remained unchanged from last month (1.5 million boxes). That figure is 55% less than last season’s output.
The Florida Department of Citrus released a statement in response to the latest citrus forecast from USDA:
“This month’s crop forecast serves as a testament to the hardships Florida Citrus growers continue to face and battle through. It’s no secret that Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole left the heart of citrus country with a long road to recovery, but Florida growers have worked to recover from extreme weather before, and this year is no exception. The Florida Department of Citrus is working alongside industry leaders and elected officials to help ensure Florida citrus growers have the assistance necessary while they continue to replant, rebuild, and work toward long-term solutions in the industry’s fight against citrus greening.”
As It Was
During the 1997-1998 season, 244 million boxes of oranges (a record high) were harvested in Florida. During the 1996-1997 season, 55.8 million boxes of grapefruit came to fruition.
The next citrus crop forecast from USDA is slated to release on March 8.