(UPDATED COVERAGE 4:30 p.m.) The first official season forecast for Florida citrus shows slight declines in navel oranges, grapefruit and tangerines, but valencias are expected to increase the Sunshine State’s total orange production.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Oct. 10 report, Florida growers expect to harvest 1.5 million equivalent cartons of navels, down 22% from 1.9 million cartons last season.
If realized, the navel forecast could be the lowest since the USDA began forecasting navels as a separate variety.
Production of valencias, which ship 97% processed, is up 9% while overall Florida citrus production is expected to increase 3% from the 2013-14 season’s 104.8 million cartons to 108 million cartons expected for 2014-15.
For grapefruit, total Florida production is forecast at 15 million cartons, down 4% from 15.7 million cartons last year.
Both white and red varieties saw 4% declines from the previous season.
The USDA projects fruit size to be above average for the navels and valencias, above the minimum on white grapefruit, below the minimum on colored grapefruit and at minimum to below minimum for the tangerines.
Droppage is reported as high for oranges and above-average for grapefruit and tangerines.
Matt Reel, director of sales for Vero Beach, Fla.-based IMG Citrus Inc., said growers are skeptical about the valencia numbers.
“Out of everything, it’s the one that has taken us by surprise,” he said Oct. 10. “We were expecting navels to be down as much as they were and tangerines to be off a little, but no one was expecting the valencias to be up as much as they are reported to be compared to last season.”
Projected droppage is at the maximum of 28% and Reel said there are many cases where droppage is higher.
Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Mutual believes the report is favorable.
"This is a positive number as the Florida citrus grower continues to battle citrus greening disease," Michael Sparks, executive vice president and chief executive officer, said in a news release. "It's been a tight few years for production and 2014-15 is no different."
Total Florida citrus production is pegged at 126.7 million cartons, down from last season’s 123.9 million cartons but considerably lower than the 2009-13 average of 169 million cartons.
Though a 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.