Hurricane Irma caused extensive damage to Florida citrus crops when it struck the state in September.
Florida’s orange prospects have diminished since November, according to a crop production report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Dec. 12 report puts the Florida all orange forecast at 46 million 90-pound boxes, down 8% November’s estimate and 33% lower than last season’s final utilization.
The USDA said early, mid-season, and navel varieties in Florida are forecast at 19 million boxes, down 10% from November and off 42% from last season.
Florida’s valencia orange forecast, at 27 million boxes, is 7% lower than November and 24% down from last season, according to the USDA.
Florida grapefruit production was estimated at 4.65 million (85-pound) boxes, unchanged from November but down 40% from last season, according to the report.
Now three months after Hurricane Irma, the crop production forecast reductions come as the Florida citrus industry seeks federal emergency funding to support growers hurt by the hurricane, according to the Florida Department of Citrus.
“This second reduction underscores the dire need for federal disaster assistance,” Shannon Shepp, executive director of the department, said in a news release. “Florida citrus growers are making decisions on next season’s crop now and they need to know they have the support necessary to keep this American icon alive.”
In October, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services estimated that growers suffered more than $760 million in damages due to Hurricane Irma, according to the release.
“This is exactly what we thought would happen as the true damage begins to rear its ugly head in the groves across Florida,” Michael Sparks, executive vice president and CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual, said in a news release. “Unfortunately the situation is going to get worse before it gets better; we think the actual size of the 2017-2018 crop will not be known until the season is over and all the fruit is picked.”
Sparks said the latest estimates are evidence that Congress needs to pass a citrus relief package so Florida growers can rebuild.
In the December crop production report, California and Texas orange production forecasts were carried forward from November and were not changed, the USDA said.
Florida’s total orange production is still slightly ahead of California. According to the December crop estimate, Florida will produce 2.07 million tons of oranges in 2017-18, slightly more than the 1.84 million tons of oranges forecast in California.
The Dec. 11 terminal market price for red Florida grapefruit, size 36s, at the Hunt’s Point Terminal Market in the Bronx, N.Y., was $28 per carton, up from $16-18 per carton the same time a year ago. Florida navels at Hunts Point, size 56s, were $22 per carton Dec. 11. That compares with $18-20 per carton the same time a year ago.