click image to zoomIn a reversal of months-long crop reductions due to fruit drop, Florida’s orange crop estimate actually increased slightly in May to 110.3 million 90-pound boxes from 110 million boxes the previous month, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The figures from the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s May 9 estimate compare to its initial 2013-14 Florida orange estimate in November of 125 million boxes. At the time, it was the lowest production since a devastating freeze during the 1989-90 season.
Last season, Florida growers harvested 133.6 million boxes of oranges.
“This is good news and we are hopeful there will not be any more decreases throughout the last two months of season,” Mike Sparks, vice president and chief executive officer of Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Mutual, said in a news release. “It has been a challenging season to say the least but growers continue to produce quality fruit which is a testament to their resiliency.”
In its May 9 crop estimate, NASS kept the valencia crop estimate at 57 million boxes while increasing the non-valencia estimate to 53.3 million boxes from 53 million boxes.
The May grapefruit estimate dipped slightly to 15.6 million 85-pound boxes from the previous month’s 16 million boxes. At the same time, tangerine and tangelo estimates remained the same as the month before — 2.95 million 90-pound boxes and 880,000 95-pound boxes, respectively.
Industry experts and growers blame the declining citrus crops on the effects of huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening.
Although the bacterial disease is harmless to humans and animals, it can debilitate and even kill citrus trees. Trees that don’t even appear diseased may suffer substantial root loss, which affects their ability to set and maintain a crop, University of Florida researchers have reported.