From a Press Release: Florida Citrus Mutual

LAKELAND, Fla. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today released its February orange crop forecast for the 2008-2009 season, reducing its earlier estimate by 2.5 percent, or 4 million boxes.

The USDA did not attribute the decline to the freezes that hit the Florida citrus belt in late January and early February. The USDA attributed the decline to smaller sizes and increased fruit drop and said it would continue to assess the impact of the freezes.

The crop is now expected to total 158 million boxes.

“The USDA has taken off several million boxes since their original orange estimate in October and with the field reports we’re getting regarding fruit damage and juice yield loss from the late January and early February freezes we would expect less juice production than we were just a month ago,” said Michael W. Sparks, executive VP/CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual. “As a result, we would anticipate better grower returns for the late crop than what we experienced for the early crop.”

 “This is most definitely a challenging season, however, Florida citrus growers will continue to produce the quality citrus known across the globe for its taste and health benefits.”

Florida citrus was hit with a cold spell on January 22 and February 5 which dropped temperatures below 28 degrees for several hours on both nights.

In its release Tuesday, the USDA said “A freeze survey…conducted on (January 27-28) showed little or no damage at that time. Additional assessments will be made in mid and late February.”

Visit 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. In 2007-2008, Florida harvested 170.2 million boxes of oranges.

The USDA maintained its prediction that 23 million boxes of grapefruit will be produced in ’08-’09.

The early and midseason crop is now projected at 83 million boxes, down from 84 million boxes. The Valencias projection is now at 75 million boxes this season, down from January’s forecast of 78 million boxes.  Florida specialty fruit is down; the USDA predicts 1.3 million boxes of tangelos, down from 1.5 million in January, and 4.6 million boxes of tangerines, down from 4.9 million.  The yield for from-concentrate orange juice (FCOJ) is expected to be 1.61 gallons per 90-pound box, down from 1.62.

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



Contact: Andrew Meadows at (863) 682-1111 or (cell)(863) 944-4924