In a Dec. 11 report, the USDA decreased the state’s total citrus crop to 168.9 million equivalent cartons, down 1% from 170.9 million cartons last season.
It’s the highest forecast decline since 1970, The USDA forecasts early and mid-season orange varieties, which include navels, to decline by 7 million boxes from the October initial season report.
Florida navel production, which typically runs through March, is down 300,000 boxes to 1.9 million cartons, the lowest predicted number since 1985.
Late-season valencia oranges are forecast to fall 1 million cartons.
Total Florida orange production is pegged at 146 million boxes, down 5% from the earlier forecast.
Grapefruit production is expected to decline 2.3 million boxes from the previous report, while tangerines are reduced by 600,000 boxes.
Early season fallglo and sunburst tangerines constitute the biggest share of the losses. Honey tangerines, which harvest January through April, are forecast to decline 200,000 cartons from the previous estimate.
“This decrease was not entirely unexpected as we have been hearing reports of severe fruit drop throughout the state,” Michael Sparks, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Mutual, said in a news release. “The dry weather coupled with intense disease pressure growers are facing is most likely causing the drop. I anticipate the decrease in crop size will continue to put upward pressure on fruit pricing.”
Though majority of the state’s oranges ship to processed channels, about 70% of its navels, half of its grapefruit and two-thirds of its tangerines ship fresh.