Trees were stressed by high winds and standing water in the wake of Hurricane Irma last year, and the damage has resulted in a much shorter orange crop. ( File Photo )

The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts Florida will produce almost 45 million boxes of oranges this season, unchanged from last month’s projection.

The estimate is down 35% from production in the 2016-2017 season. Hurricane Irma wiped out much of the crop and stressed trees when it blew through in September.

The storm especially frustrated growers because they initially anticipated a stronger crop this season.

RELATED: The Packer traveled to Florida after the hurricane to bring back interviews, photos and videos of the damage.

Early, midseason and navel varieties are forecast at 19 million boxes, down 43% from 2016-17. Valencias are projected at 26 million boxes, down 27%.

The June forecast is the last one for the current crop.

“While today’s final citrus crop forecast brings this horrible season to a close, it’s important to remember that the industry is still recovering from Hurricane Irma’s unprecedented damage last year,” Florida agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam said in a news release. “Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the USDA, Florida’s agriculture industry and our elected leaders, much-needed disaster assistance is on the way to help Florida’s growers.”

The hurricane caused more than $760 million in damage to the Florida citrus industry.

 

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