When USDA’s initial 2017-2018 Florida all-orange crop estimate was released last month at 54 million boxes, there were audible gasps heard around the industry. Indeed, the season-opening figure was hard to swallow, but not unexpected after a major hurricane strike. However, many in the industry seemed somewhat surprised the number came in as high as it did, especially given post-storm damage reports from the field.
Arguments were made the agency didn’t take enough time to adjust for Hurricane Irma’s impact on the Sunshine State’s signature crop. Conversely, others have guessed the crop was headed in the right direction and due to come in higher than recent seasons.
So, how are the numbers shaking out as of this posting?
The updated 2017-2018 Florida all-orange forecast now stands at 50 million boxes (21 million for early and mid-season varieties; plus 29 million for Valencia). According to USDA stats, if the orange outlook holds, it will be 27% less than last season’s production and the lowest since the 1945-1946 season of 49 million boxes.
As for the state’s grapefruit sector, news didn’t improve either. The projected total was lowered 250,000 boxes from last month’s projection to 4.65 million boxes.
In response to the revised forecast, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam stated: “Today’s lowered forecast shows that the damage to Florida citrus from Hurricane Irma is still unfolding, and it will continue to for some time. Florida’s growers need support and they need it fast. I will continue to work with Governor Scott and leaders in Washington to get Florida’s growers the support and relief they need to rebuild as quickly as possible.”
The next USDA citrus crop estimate is scheduled to release on December 12.