The latest citrus crop forecast for the 2017-2018 season released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture has more bad news for Florida’s citrus industry.
The USDA forecasts 46 million boxes of oranges will be harvested this season. That’s down four million boxes from the estimate released in November and eight million from the October forecast.
“While much of the state has recovered and moved on from Hurricane Irma, Florida’s citrus growers continue to grapple with the unprecedented damage, which is still unfolding in many groves,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
Hurricane Irma devastated this year’s citrus crop when it hit the Florida Keys and southwest Florida and made its way up the state’s west coast. Irma’s strong winds of 110 mph and greater ripped fruit from trees. The storm dumped up to 15 inches of rain in parts of the state leaving citrus groves flooded. The water damaged the root systems of trees killing many of them.
It’s estimated the hurricane caused more than $760 million to the state’s citrus industry.
“Florida’s growers need support and they need it as quickly as possible,” Putnam added. “I will continue to work with Governor Scott and leaders in Washington to get Florida’s growers the support and relief they need to rebuild.”
Putnam and Gov. Rick Scott, along with members of Florida’s Congressional Delegation, have been working to get a financial relief package for citrus growers passed by Congress, but lawmakers in Washington have yet to come through with any assistance for growers.
The state Department of Agriculture says the current USDA forecast represents a decline of more than 80 percent since the peak of citrus production at 244 million boxes during the 1997-98 season.