Provided by FLORIDA CITRUS MUTUAL
Bartow, Fla. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued the January 2024 citrus crop forecast today for the 2023-2024 harvest season. The federal agency estimates production to be 20.5 million boxes of oranges this season. Additionally, the USDA forecasted 2.4 million boxes of grapefruit and 550,000 boxes of tangerines and tangelos. This month’s forecast remains unchanged since the December 2023 crop estimate.
“I’m hopeful Florida’s citrus industry continues to rebound, given that the forecast remained unchanged this month. Florida growers have worked diligently to utilize every tool available to fight citrus greening, and we’re just beginning to see the impact they will have on Florida’s citrus groves,” says Matt Joyner, CEO at Florida Citrus Mutual. “This rebound will not happen overnight – it’s going to take time to recover from the effects of citrus greening and recent weather events. Yet, Florida growers have an enduring spirit and remain committed to delivering orange juice to families across the nation and around the world.”
Florida’s 2023-2024 fiscal year began July 1, and with that came more than $65 million in funding from the Florida Legislature to support Florida citrus. This investment includes $38 million to support grower research and field trials.
Florida Citrus Mutual continues to advocate for recovery funding from Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. Congress allocated $3.7 billion dollars to assist producers impacted by natural disasters nationwide in 2022, but relief funds for recovery and replanting efforts have been slow to come.
According to UF|IFAS, Hurricane Ian’s path touched roughly 375,000 acres of citrus groves across the Sunshine State. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services estimates Hurricane Ian inflicted up to $675 million in damages to Florida’s citrus growers.
Prior to the hurricanes of 2022, Florida’s citrus groves were already struggling to combat Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening. Greening was introduced to Florida in 2005 by an invasive pest, the Asian citrus psyllid. Since 2005, citrus greening has spread to all commercial groves in Florida. Trees with greening decline in health over time, produce fewer, smaller fruits and ultimately die. As a result, Florida’s citrus industry has been decimated by citrus greening.
At its peak during the 1997-98 season, the citrus industry produced 244 million boxes of oranges. The USDA’s January forecast for the 2023-2024 season represents just 8.4% of the industry’s peak production.