( File photo )

The Florida citrus crop is a little bigger this year, and that has big meaning for industry leaders.

The first forecast from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, released Oct. 10, points to a moderate bump up in the Florida citrus crop in the 2019-20 marketing season.

The USDA’s initial estimate of the 2019-20 Florida orange crop is 74 million boxes, up 3.4% from last season. The agency projected Florida grapefruit production at 4.6 million boxes for the 2019-20 season, up 2% from the previous crop. Florida’s combined tangerine and mandarin crop is forecast at 1.05 million boxes, 6% higher than last season.

“This incremental increase is good news for the industry as we continue to recover from Hurricane Irma and the devastating effects of citrus greening,” Michael Sparks, executive vice president and CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual, said in a news release. “We believe that this number — if it holds throughout the year — will strike a nice balance of getting the processors the oranges they need while firming up prices to the Florida citrus grower.”

Sparks said growers are slowing building output after declines caused by citrus greening disease pressures.

“We are not out of the woods but we are making gains,” Sparks said in the release.

The USDA issues its first estimate in October of each year and revises it monthly during the harvest until the end of the season in July.

“This reflects what we’ve been hearing from growers,” Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus, said in a release. “Florida Citrus is here to stay.”

That sentiment was echoed by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.

“Today’s forecast reflects the resilience of Florida’s citrus growers, dedication to the citrus industry, and commitment to innovation in the face of challenges,” Fried said in the release. “Citrus is Florida’s signature crop, and we’re committed to supporting our citrus producers with new research, technology, and techniques to fight the spread of citrus greening.”

California and Texas output 

Meanwhile, the USDA pegged the 2019-20 California navel orange crop at 47 million boxes, down 6% from last season’s final estimate.

The California valencia orange forecast is 9 million boxes, unchanged from last season. The Texas all-orange crop was forecast at 2.70 million boxes, up 8% from last season.

Meanwhile, the combined tangerine and mandarin forecast for California is 23 million boxes, 12% lower than last season.

Grapefruit production in California is forecast at 4.2 million boxes, up 32% compared to last season.

Texas grapefruit outlook was projected at 5.7 million boxes, down 7% from last season.

Lemon outlook in 2019-20 is forecast at 20 million boxes in California, 12% less than last season. Arizona lemon output is pegged at 1.4 million boxes, 4% higher than last season.