VERO BEACH, Fla. — The season’s first forecast for Florida citrus production shows continued declines across all varieties with grapefruit and navel oranges expected to be among the lowest levels in history.
On Oct. 12, the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast Florida to 81 million equivalent cartons of oranges, grapefruit and specialty fruit or tangerines, down from 94.1 million boxes last season.
The state is expected to harvest 70 million 90-pound cartons of oranges with navel oranges constituting 1.0 million cartons.
Navels are forecast to be 3% lower than last season and the lowest since 1979-80 when the USDA began separate navel forecasts.
On grapefruit, Florida growers are expected to harvest 9.6 million 85-pound cartons, down 11% from the 2015-16 season and the lowest level in 50 years.
On fruit size, white and red grapefruit are predicted to be above minimum with projected droppage to be above average.
For tangerines, early season fallglos, midseason sunbursts and later season honeys are forecast to decline.
Projected droppage is expected to be above average for all tangerine varieties.
The report, which forecast 7.5 million boxes of red grapefruit and 2.1 million boxes of white grapefruit, wasn’t a surprise to Matt Kastensmidt, domestic sales manager for IMG Citrus Inc.
“It is about what we expected,” he said Oct. 12. “We know there will be continual decreases every year until we figure out how to deal with citrus greening.”
Mike Sparks, executive vice president and CEO of the Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Mutual, reacted to the report.
“The 2016-17 citrus season is here and we are cautiously optimistic heading into it,” he said in a news release. “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. We expect upward pressure on grower returns.”
California oranges are forecast to be down from 54.2 million 80-pound cartons last season to 50.5 million cartons this season.
Texas orange production is predicted to fall from 1.7 million 85-pound cartons in 2015-16 to 1.4 million cartons this year.
On grapefruit, Texas production is forecast to decline from last season’s 4.8 million 80-pound cartons to 4.7 million cartons this season.
California grapefruit production is forecast to increase from 3.8 million 80-pound cartons last season to 4 million cartons for 2016-17.