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 crop forecast at 70 million boxes, lowest in decades

Greening disease causes fruit to become lopsided and taste bitter.
Greening disease causes fruit to become lopsided and taste bitter. The disease with no known cure has devastated Florida’s citrus industry.

Florida’s signature crop, the orange, continues to be battered by greening disease, and the federal government’s first forecast of the 2016-17 is a bleak one. It’s shaping up to be worse than last season’s when the crop reached a 52-year low.

The state’s commercial orange crop will be an estimated 70 million boxes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Wednesday.  That’s a drop of more than 11 million boxes from last season’s 81.6 million boxes, which was 70 percent lower than 20 years ago.

As recently as 2013-14, Florida citrus growers produced 104.7 million 90-pound boxes of orange oranges. Production has declined from a peak of 244 million boxes during the 1997-1998 season.

Over the last decade, Florida’s commercial groves have been crippled by greening, a bacterial disease. Spread by the Asian citrus psyllid, it attacks a tree’s vascular system and can kill it within two years.
In September 2005, U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists confirmed the first U.S. detection of greening on samples of pummelo leaves and fruit from a Miami-Dade County grove.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Wednesday, “Although not unexpected, today’s initial citrus crop forecast is disheartening and further proof of the trying times facing Florida’s citrus industry. Production of our state’s signature crop is down 70 percent from 20 years ago, and the future of Florida citrus depends on a breakthrough in the fight against greening. We must continue to support our growers and provide them with every tool available to combat greening.”

Development of land into commercial and residential uses has also played a role in the shrinking crop, but greening and other diseases are the main cause.  Florida’s commercial citrus acreage has dropped to 480,121 acres this year, from 857,687 acres in 1996,the USDA said last month. That said, the state still has  50.8 million bearing orange trees.

The state will produce an estimated 9.6 million boxes of grapefruit, down from 10.8 million last season. In 2013-14 Florida produced 15.65 million boxes of grapefruit, the USDA said.

Michael Sparks, vice president and CEO of grower group Florida Citrus Mutual said Wednesday, “The 2016-17 citrus season is here and we are cautiously optimistic heading into it.  The all Florida orange forecast number of 70 million boxes is about what we expected, and although it’s low Florida growers will again use their trademark resilience to bring consumers the best citrus in the world.”

 

Florida orange crop estimate increases 7 percent, crop at historic lows

citrus greening photo

Staff photo, Bruce Bennett

For the second consecutive month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture raised its estimate of the 2015-2016 Florida orange crop, predicting growers will produce 76 million boxes, a 7 percent increase.

But as greening disease continues to decimate Florida citrus, this season’s crop is still expected to be the smallest in 52 years. In the 1964-65 season, Florida growers produced 58.3 million 90-pound boxes of oranges.

Production has declined from a peak of 244 million boxes during the 1997-1998 season.

 Over the last decade, the state’s commercial groves have been crippled by citrus greening, a bacterial disease also known as Huanglongbing. Spread by the Asian citrus psyllid, it attacks a tree’s vascular system and can kill it within two years. There is no known cure.

The psyllid was first detected in the U.S. in Delray Beach in June 1998, but the disease wasn’t found in Florida until 2005, when it was first identified in Homestead.

But Tuesday, the industry was glad for the slight increase.

 “It’s nice to be in expansion rather than reduction mode while knowing growers are still producing a quality crop,” said Michael W. Sparks, executive VP/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual. “But our industry remains at historically low production levels as we continue to battle HLB, or citrus greening.”

The USDA makes its initial estimate in October of each year and revises it monthly as the crop takes shape until the end of the season in July.

During the 2014-2015 season, Florida produced 96.8 million boxes of oranges. Visit http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Florida/Publications/Citrus/cpfp.htm for the complete USDA estimate.

The USDA’s estimate of the 2015-2016 Florida grapefruit crop remained at 10.7 million boxes. Specialty citrus decreased a fraction to 1.79 million boxes. The yield for frozen concentrate orange juice (FCOJ) is 1.42 gallons per 90-pound box.