From a news release

LAKELAND, Fla. (October 10, 2008) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its initial citrus crop forecast for the 2008-2009 season, predicting Florida will produce 166 million boxes of oranges, a 2.5 percent decrease from last season’s total of 170.2 million boxes.

“This is a manageable crop for our industry,” said Michael W. Sparks, executive VP/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual.  Florida citrus growers need higher returns so that they can shoulder increased production costs due, in part, to unprecedented disease pressures and high input prices.” 

“For consumers, the combination of surplus juice inventories and a healthy crop will most likely lead to an adjustment in prices at the retail level.  We are confident that orange juice will remain an excellent value.” Sparks continued. “Florida citrus growers are investing heavily is pest and disease research; we are hopeful that our retail partners will expand their promotional activities in support of the category.”

Visit www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Florida/Publications/Citrus/cpfp.htm for the complete USDA estimate. The USDA makes its initial forecast in October and then revises it monthly until the end of the season in July.

“This crop is above earlier industry expectations,” said Fran Becker, Mutual’s president. “Our industry is facing many production issues; the fact that we are able to produce a quality crop at this level is a testament to our efficiencies.  The economic situation both here and abroad will most certainly impact our markets for fresh and processed citrus the extent of which will not be known for some time.”     

The USDA predicts 23 million boxes of grapefruit will be produced in ’08-‘09, down 14 percent from 26.6 million last season. 

The forecast for early and midseason varieties in Florida is projected at 88 million boxes and Valencias are projected to total 78 million boxes this season.  For Florida specialty fruit, the USDA predicts 1.5 million boxes of tangelos and 4.9 million boxes of tangerines.  The yield for from concentrate orange juice (FCOJ) is expected to be 1.59 gallons per 90-pound box.

The Florida citrus industry creates a $9.3 billion annual economic impact, employing nearly 76,000 people, and covering more than 576,000 acres. Founded in 1948 and currently representing nearly 8,000 grower members, Florida Citrus Mutual is the state’s largest citrus grower organization. For more information, visit www.flcitrusmutual.com.