The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its first citrus crop forecast for the 2006-2007 season Oct 12, predicting 135 million boxes of oranges, a nine percent decrease from last season’s total of 147.9 million boxes.

“A 135 million-box crop is noteworthy, considering what the Florida citrus industry has endured during the past several years—four hurricanes, a canker eradication and suppression program, and significant citrus acreage sold to developers,” said Mike Sparks, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Mutual. “We lost 17 percent of our state’s trees over the past two seasons, but it appears that the remaining trees will provide us with a good, quality harvest for 2006-07.”

The forecast for early and mid-season varieties in Florida, which includes 3.3 million boxes of navels, is projected at 72 million boxes. Valencias are projected to total 63 million boxes this season, the USDA said.

Florida grapefruit estimates, however, are up this year. The USDA predicts 26 million boxes will be produced, up from 19.3 million last season—an increase of 35 percent.

For Florida specialty fruit, the USDA predicts 1.1 million boxes of tangelos and 4.6 million boxes of tangerines, including 2.4 million boxes of early varieties and 2.2 million boxes of honey tangerines.

The yield for frozen concentrated orange juice is expected to be 1.5 gallons per 90-pound box.