Sunday, June 4, 2023

Florida citrus growers expect smallest orange crop in nearly 90 years

Production numbers for the Florida orange crop continue to decline as the hurricane-battered end of the citrus season comes to an end.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a forecast Friday saying Florida growers are on track to fill 15.65 million boxes of oranges this season, the lowest since the 1934-1935 season. Total will be

Florida growers produced 41.2 million boxes of oranges during the 2021-2022 season, which itself saw a major decline.

While additional figures will be released in June and July, Matt Joyner, CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual, called Friday’s forecast “the end of a tough harvest season” and said the focus is on the upcoming season. In addition to the extensive damage caused by Hurricane Ian last fall, the industry has battled deadly citrus greening disease and development pressures for two decades.

“There are many reasons for Florida growers to be optimistic about the return of Florida’s star crop,” Joyner said. “The new treatment methods implemented this season are proving their effectiveness. The Florida legislature has provided tremendous support to the industry in the form of funding for research green appleHelp to re-plant and help in case of storm”.

Lawmakers last week approved a proposed 2023-2024 budget that would increase funding for various aspects of the citrus industry by about $65 million.

If the expenditure is approved by the Govt. Ron DeSantis, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will get $49.5 million for citrus protection and research, including large-scale field trials on trees that are resistant to huanglongbing, the formal name for citrus greening. , and pests. Among other things, the citrus department will receive $5 million for marketing.

The budget for the current year ending June 30 includes $37 million to aid the citrus industry.

Two decades ago, the state was producing about 200 million 90-pound boxes of oranges and 50 million boxes of grapefruit per season.

Friday’s federal forecast showed a slight boost to grape production, estimated at 1.8 million boxes this season. This figure is up from 1.6 million boxes in March and 1.7 million boxes in April.

But that’s still less than the 3.33 million boxes produced during the 2021-2022 growing season.

Friday’s forecast for specialty crops listed as mandarin held steady at 500,000 boxes for the third month in a row. Last season, specialty crops filled 750,000 boxes.

Combined, the case count would be the lowest since the 1929–1930 season, when the industry faced an invasion of Mediterranean fruit flies and growers were still reeling from the severe hurricanes of 1926 and 1928.

The first forecast for the 2022–2023 season was made in October, shortly after Hurricane Ian hit the state in late September, causing extensive damage to groves. The growing season, which ends in June, is also affected by winter frosts.

Leading citrus grower, Fort Myers-based Alico Inc. President and CEO John Kiernan said in a quarterly earnings report last week that the company is focused on preparing Groves for the 2023-2024 season.

“Based on past experience with storms of this nature [como Ian]We estimate that it may take two full seasons or more for our plantings to reach pre-hurricane production levels,” Kiernan said in the report.

“Alico has been able to weather the effects of Hurricane Ian and unusually hot and dry weather because of the investments and actions the company has taken in recent years,” Kiernan said.

Elico attributed the drop in production to a further drop in fruit caused by Ian, although he said he received $1.6 million in gross proceeds from the sale of the 278-acre farm.

In a prepared statement, Kiernan said the company had received approximately $13.7 million in crop insurance money through the first four months of 2023, with additional claims pending.

The industry is still waiting for federal hurricane aid approved in December, though the allocation process remains unclear.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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