Florida citrus crop estimate shrinks again post-Irma

Florida citrus groves were severely damaged by Hurricane Irma. Provided.

Hurricane Irma continues to haunt Florida farmers as the U.S. Department of Agriculture Tuesday once again decreased its monthly estimate of the state’s 2017-2018 citrus crop.

The USDA now says Florida will produce 46 million boxes of oranges, down 4 million boxes from November and 8 million boxes from October. The USDA makes its first estimate in October of each year and revises it monthly until the end of the season in July.  For more information go to https://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Florida/Publications/Citrus/

   “This is exactly what we thought would happen as the true damage begins to rear its ugly head in the groves across Florida,” said Michael W. Sparks, executive VP/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual, the state’s largest grower organization. “Unfortunately the situation is going to get worse before it gets better; we think the actual size of the 2017-2018 crop will not be known until the season is over and all the fruit is picked.”

“Clearly, this lower estimate provides stark evidence that Congress needs to pass a citrus relief package so we can start to rebuild and put the industry on a path to sustainability while saving the communities that rely on citrus,” Sparks said.

On September 10  Hurricane Irma moved through the center of the state pounding Florida’s major citrus producing regions with up to 110 mph winds and 15 inches of rain. The hurricane blew fruit off the tree and caused widespread tree damage. A FCM survey of growers conducted post Irma pegged total fruit loss at almost 60 percent with some reports of 100 percent fruit loss in the Southwest part of the state.

Tuesday’s forecast represents a decline of more than 80 percent since the peak of citrus production at 244 million boxes during the 1997-98 season.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Tuesday, “While much of the state has recovered and moved on from Hurricane Irma, Florida’s citrus growers continue to grapple with the unprecedented damage, which is still unfolding in many groves. Florida’s growers need support and they need it as quickly as possible. 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.”

After Irma, Putnam announced that Florida citrus sustained more than $760 million in damages.

For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit FreshFromFlorida.com.

 

 

Florida orange forecast drops as greening disease continues to kill trees

Greening disease causes fruit to become lopsided and taste bitter.

Florida’s orange crop continues to be decimated by greening disease, and Thursday, federal forecasters dropped the orange production  estimate for the 2017-18 season by 3 million boxes from last month’s estimate.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said  that Florida growers will produce 67 million 90-pound boxes of oranges, down 17 percent from the 81.5 million  boxes harvested last season. In the 2014-15 season, Florida’s commercial growers produced 96.9 million boxes of oranges.

Thursday’s  forecast represents a decline of more than 70 percent since the peak of citrus production at 244 million boxes during the 1997-98 season.

In September 2005, USDA scientists confirmed the first U.S. detection of greening on samples of pummelo leaves and fruit from a Miami-Dade County grove. It is now endemic to Florida and found in every citrus-producing county.

The symptoms include yellow shoots, mottled leaves,  twig death, tree decline and reduced fruit size and quality. Affected fruit tastes bitter, medicinal and sour. Symptoms don’t show up for an average of two years following infection.

The disease is spread by a tiny insect called the  Asian citrus psyllid, that was first detected in the U.S. in Delray Beach in 1998. The psyllid transports the greening pathogen infected trees to healthy trees as they feed on the plant. They have mottled brown wings and sit at an angle to the shoot or leaf on which they feed.

In 2016  Putnam issued a crisis declaration  regarding growers’ Section 18 application to the Environmental Protection Agency, which allowed the immediate use of certain antimicrobial treatments to combat greening.

Florida’s orange crop estimate sinks lower as tree-killing disease spreads

Greening disease causes fruit to become lopsided and taste bitter.
Greening disease causes fruit to become lopsided and taste bitter.

Florida’s signature crop continues to be hammered by greening disease, and Thursday the U.S. Department of Agriculture reduced its orange crop forecast for the 2016-17 season.

The Florida all orange forecast, at 71 million  90-pound boxes  is down 1 million boxes from last month’s estimate of 72 million,  and down 13 percent from last season’s final utilization of 81.6 million boxes.

The grapefruit crop estimate dropped to 9 million boxes from 9.3 million boxes in December. Florida produced 10.8 million boxes of grapefruit in the 2015-16 season.

Greening is a bacterial disease spread by the tiny Asian citrus psyllid. It was first confirmed in August 2005 in Miami-Dade County. By that October, it was found in Palm Beach, Broward and Hendry, and since then has spread throughout Florida and to other states such as Texas and California.

Florida growers produced a peak of 244 million boxes of oranges in the 1997-98 season.

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam said Thursday, “Because of citrus greening, production of our state’s signature crop is down 70 percent from 20 years ago. The future of Florida citrus, and the tens of thousands of jobs it supports, depends on a long-term solution in the fight against greening. Our brightest minds are working to find a solution, but until then, we must support our growers and provide them every tool available to combat this devastating disease.”

Putnam has requested more than $17 million in state funding to continue critical research and support Florida’s citrus industry.

Still have a citrus tree? Here are some greening symptoms:

•Leaf yellowing or blotchy mottling of leaves

•Lopsided and bitter fruit

•Fruit that remains green even when ripe

•Twig dieback and stunted sparsely foliated trees that may bloom off season.