Florida’s citrus industry received a little good news Wednesday as a new production forecast for the current growing season increased 1 percent for oranges and 5 percent for grapefruit.
The industry remains on a path toward the smallest harvest since before World War II, but Matt Joyner, CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual, said “our hope is on the rise.”
Joyner pointed to efforts to rebound from Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole and a continuing fight against deadly citrus-greening disease.
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“We’re confident that hurricane relief from the federal government — if released — can help growers recover from the damages caused by Ian and Nicole,” Joyner said in a prepared statement. “We’re optimistic that new treatments for greening and disease-resistant varieties will turn the tide in our fight against the spread of this bacterial disease. And we’re encouraged by the resilience of Florida growers. We’re not in the business of giving up.”
Florida growers have reeled from Hurricane Ian, which hit in late September as the season was getting underway, and from a winter freeze. They also have struggled for two decades with citrus greening disease amid pressures of residential and commercial development.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast released Wednesday estimated Florida growers will fill 16.1 million 90-pound boxes of oranges. That’s 100,000 more than estimated in a February forecast, but still down from the 41.05 million boxes produced in the 2021-2022 season.
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The forecast of grapefruit production inched up from 1.5 million boxes in February to 1.6 million boxes. About 3.33 million boxes of grapefruit were produced in the 2021-2022 season.
The forecast of specialty crops, listed as tangerines and mandarins, held steady at 500,000 boxes. Last season, specialty crops filled 750,000 boxes.
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