Florida citrus production continues downturn

by | May 12, 2023

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture revised its citrus production forecast for Florida, indicating a decline in orange production compared to the previous month.
  • Florida growers are expected to produce 15.65 million boxes of oranges, 1.8 million boxes of grapefruit, and 500,000 boxes of tangerines and tangelos.
  • The decline in citrus production is attributed to various factors such as citrus greening, extreme weather, and development, leading to potential impacts on the national market consumption of Florida citrus.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture updated its citrus production forecast for Florida on Friday, predicting a proliferating downturn compared to the month prior.

In an afternoon conference call, Florida Citrus CEO Matt Joyner stated that growers in Florida are now expected to produce 15.65 million boxes of oranges, 1.8 million boxes of grapefruit, and 500,000 boxes of tangerines and tangelos.

This compared to April’s forecast, where it was projected that farmers would produce 16.1 million boxes of oranges, 1.7 million boxes of grapefruit, and 500,000 boxes of tangerines and tangelos, outlines a continuing month-over-month decline, particularly in oranges, which bring in the highest profit margins.

In February, the Florida Department of Citrus (FDoC) projected 18 million boxes of oranges to be produced for Fiscal Year 2022-23, which itself marked a 56 percent decrease compared to the previous year.

The agency additionally anticipated a decline of 1.5 million boxes of grapefruits, representing a 55 percent drop, and 500,000 boxes of tangerines, which corresponds to a 33 percent decrease in production.

Industry analysts predict that Florida processors will need to depend on imports and domestic receipts to meet the current market demand. According to leaders, Florida Citrus has been on a downward trend for two decades due to issues like residential and commercial development, foreign imports, and an incurable bacterial disease known as citrus greening.

“Despite citrus growers facing the perfect storm over the last several years of greening, extreme weather, and inflation, their grit and determination persist along with the promise of better days for Florida citrus,” said Shannon Shepp, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Citrus.

In a presentation given to the Senate in February, FDoC told lawmakers that more than 375,000 acres of commercial citrus farms faced production losses due to hurricane or tropical storm-force winds, resulting in between $146.9 million and $304.3 million in production loss. Agency representatives also stated that between 8 and 11 percent of the state’s citrus trees were damaged or destroyed during hurricanes Ian and Nicole.

A cost analysis estimate conducted by the University of Florida posited that overall state agriculture loss in Florida due to the hurricanes amounted to at least $1.5 billion dollars. Agriculture is Florida’s second-largest industry behind tourism.

“It’s no secret that Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole left the heart of citrus country with a long road to recovery, but Florida growers have worked to recover from extreme weather before, and this year is no exception,” said FDoC to The Capitolist. “The Florida Department of Citrus is working alongside industry leaders and elected officials to help ensure Florida citrus growers have the assistance necessary while they continue to replant, rebuild, and work toward long-term solutions in the industry’s fight against citrus greening.”

In the current fiscal year, Florida is projected to account for approximately 70 percent of all domestically produced orange juice, according to FDoC. Demand for Florida Citrus is anticipated to remain high through the current agricultural season but reduced overall availability could impact national market consumption. The forecast comes after the 2021-22 season marked its lowest production since World War II.

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