The USDA’s February Florida all-orange forecast brought a few rays of sunshine to Florida citrus growers with a modest increase in the forecast. Florida’s citrus growers have been seeing citrus forecasts drop significantly since citrus greening was detected in South Florida in 2005. That year ended with a total production of 149.6 million boxes of oranges. While Florida citrus growers do have many challenges before them, there are a few additional rays of optimism concerning Florida’s leading crop.
February Forecast Details
The first USDA Florida all-orange citrus crop forecast for the 2020-2021 season, released in October, started off at a projected 57 million boxes, which was down 15 percent from the 67.3 million boxes produced in the 2019-2020 season. While November’s forecast remained the same, December’s forecast dropped 2 percent to 56 million boxes. January’s forecast saw another drop, falling 4 percent for a total of 54 million boxes.
So the February forecast’s increase of 4 percent, bringing the projected total of boxes of citrus harvested this season back up to 56 million boxes, was a welcome change of pace. Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus, was quoted as saying in response to the February 9 February forecast, “Today’s forecast gives us reason to be cautiously optimistic as we proceed through the remainder of the season. We are hopeful growers will be able to harvest as much of the Valencia crop as possible with minimal drop in the months to come.”
February’s forecast put non-Valencia oranges at 22 million boxes, an increase of 10 percent over the January forecast. Valencia oranges remained steady at 34 million boxes. Additionally, Florida grapefruit remained steady at 4.6 million boxes, while tangerines and tangelos dropped 5 percent to 1.05 million boxes, but still a 3 percent increase over last year’s harvest.
Additional Positives for Florida Citrus
Florida citrus growers have also been bolstered by the increased demand for Florida citrus, both locally and through online orders, and for Florida orange juice. While no one is pleased that the increase in demand has been created by consumers looking for the health benefits of citrus and orange juice in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida citrus growers are happy with the increase in demand.
The Florida Department of Citrus estimated that the 2019-20 season saw Florida-sourced orange juice production increase by 57 percent over the previous season, with a decline in imported juice helping to increase the percentage of Florida oranges made into juice.
Hopefully, the increase in the forecast is just one of many pieces of good news ahead for Florida citrus.