U.S. citrus supplies lowest in 50 years, USDA report says

(File image)

The 2021-22 season has been a lean year for domestic citrus supply, and a new USDA fruit outlook report reinforces that point.

The USDA said the 2021-22 U.S. citrus crop was forecast in March to be 6 million tons, down 13% from the final output for the 2020/21 season.  At that level, the 2021-22 crop would be the smallest crop in more than 50 years, the USDA said. The USDA said the decline in overall U.S. citrus production this season is tied to decreases in Florida orange and grapefruit production, and moderate decreases in California production of the same commodities.

The March forecast reveals total utilized production of oranges in the U.S. will be below the levels observed in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in 2017-18.

The 2021-22 crop is forecast 1.6% below the initial USDA forecast of 6.1 million tons released October 2021. 

The March forecast said:

  • U.S. all-orange production is forecast at 3.8 million tons in 2021-22, down 15% from 2020-21.
  • Production of tangerines (a commodity group including tangerines, mandarins and tangelos) is expected to be 25% below 2020-21 levels at a total of 878,000 tons.
  • Lemons are the only citrus commodity forecast to reach production levels above last season, at 976,000 tons, 10% higher than last season.
  • Total orange production for the U.S. in the 2021-22 season (November-October) is forecast down from last year by 15%.
  • Orange production in Florida is forecast down this season by 22% at 1.85 million tons;.
  • Florida’s early/mid-season non-Valencia crops are down in that state by 4.5 million boxes, or 203,000 tons.
  • Florida’s Valencia orange production is projected to be down by 7.1 million boxes, or 320,000, tons from last year.
  • Droppage of Valencia oranges in Florida was estimated at 47% in March 2022, 38% higher than the same period last season. Slightly larger Valencia fruit this season may somewhat temper yield losses because of droppage, the USDA said. High droppage rates and lower yields in Florida can be attributed to the ongoing effects of citrus greening, the USDA said.
  • Texas generally accounts for less than 2% of U.S. commercial orange production. Texas orange production was down by 62% compared to last year, the USDA said. The decrease in Texas production can largely be attributed to the lingering effects of Winter Storm Uri, which plunged the state into below-freezing temperatures for several days in February 2021, damaging fruit set for the 2021-22 season.
  • U.S. imports of fresh oranges for the 2021-22 season to date (November 2021-January 2022) are up 36% compared to last year.
  • The average grower price of fresh oranges as reported by USDA for the period from November 2021 through January 2022 is $23.05 per box, up 5% from the same period last year. This increase in prices in conjunction with higher imports is reflective of lower domestic production levels.
  • The USDA predicts total U.S. fresh orange imports will reach 276,000 tons in 2021-22, with Chile and Mexico expected to remain the largest suppliers to the fresh market, followed by South Africa, Australia and Colombia.

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