How the USDA citrus forecast is calculated

TEN MONTHS OUT OF EACH YEAR, during the citrus harvesting season, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Statistics Service provides an estimate of Florida citrus production. The estimates, which also include citrus grown in California and Texas as well as projected yields for frozen concentrated orange juice, begin in October (the first report for the 2015–16 season came out Oct. 9) and continue through July.

Because citrus is harvested during a span of several months and sold year round, the crop estimates are crucial to the government and citrus industry policy makers who make decisions about operations, marketing, and investing.

The citrus harvest forecasts include a lot of data and industry terminology, but they are fairly easy to understand if you have a bit of background information. Each citrus forecast provides the latest estimate of annual crop production. The forecast is based on objective estimates and projections from actual counts and measurements, avoiding data based on opinion and judgment.

Four basic parameters are used in the citrus forecast: 1) number of bearing trees, 2) number of fruit per tree, 3) fruit size, and 4) fruit loss from droppage. After statisticians do their tried-and-tested sampling in the groves, these parameters are plugged into a formula to determine the number of fruit per box for each citrus variety and, ultimately, the number of estimated boxes of production for each variety. The Florida citrus varieties included in each production forecast are non-Valencia oranges (early, including Navel, and mid-season varieties), Valencia oranges, grapefruit (white and colored), tangelos, and tangerines (early and Honey).

Each monthly citrus forecast presents estimated production by type and state in numbers of boxes (listed in thousands of boxes). It also provides comparisons against the previous month’s estimate and final citrus production for the previous three years. In just one example, the final citrus forecast in July for the 2014–15 harvest season showed an estimated production of 49.3 million boxes of Florida Valencia oranges. That compared with an estimate of 49 million boxes of Valencias in June and a final production of 51.4 million boxes of Valencias for 2013–14.

How will the Florida citrus industry do for 2015–16? We’ll all know about this time next year.



BIO: Charles Counter started in the agriculture business in 1986. He is the Director of Field Operations for the Haines City Citrus Growers Association, managing over 7,000 acres of ag land in Florida. Established in 1909, the HCCGA provides for Complete Grove Development and Management, is a member of Florida’s Natural, and operates as Caretaker and Packer of Citrus, as well as Organic & Conventional Peaches and Blueberries. To contact Charles, call (863) 557-0510 or email

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