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U.S. orange production forecasts have remained steady in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest citrus report, but Florida should expect a slight increase over last year’s final production, a welcome sign for citrus groups there.

The Dec. 10 report from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service predicts Florida’s orange production at 74 million 90-pound boxes, unchanged from its last report, but up 3% from year-end 2018-19 production.

The early/midseason/navel outlook, at 32 million boxes, also holds steady from the last monthly report, but an increase of 5% from last season’s totals. Valencia oranges are forecast at 42 million boxes, which would put them 2% up from last season’s final utilization, according to the USDA report.

Grapefruit production in Florida saw a 6.5% bump in the December report, translating to a 9% jump from 2018-19 numbers.

“Today's news is welcome for an industry that has had its fair share of ups and downs," Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus, said in a news release. "The hard work of Florida citrus growers is evident in theses numbers and on the tables of families around the world who have come to expect only the best from Florida citrus.”

According to The Gainesville Sun, during a Dec. 10 Florida Senate Agriculture Committee hearing, citrus growers and state lawmakers expressed concerns about the status of the industry, beset by hurricanes in recent years and the devastating citrus greening disease.

“I don’t know how many plagues were going to fight, but we’re getting very close to biblical proportions,” Florida Citrus Mutual Executive Vice President Michael Sparks told members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, according to the Gainesville Sun. “All of these issues have put downward pressure on grower returns.”

The majority of Florida’s oranges are grown for the juice market, and Sparks and others spoke about the need for an orange juice marketing campaign.

Other states

California and Texas orange production estimates in the December report are the same from the previous USDA report.

Total orange production for California is estimated at 47 million 80-pound boxes, compared to the past season’s 49.8 million boxes. While Valencias hold steady year-to-year at 9 million boxes, other varieties are expected to amount to 38 million boxes, compared to 40.8 million in 2018-19, according to the USDA report.

Mandarin and tangerine production in California, which has seen increases in recent years with many brand-name offerings at retail in recent years, is expected to drop 3 million 80-pound boxes, two 23 million boxes.

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