The mid-season, and navel orange shipments forecast for Florida is now at 19 million boxes, down 10 percent from November and off 42 percent from a year ago.
The report from December 12th places the Florida orange forecast at 46 million 90-pound boxes, down 8 percent the November estimate and 33 percent lower than last season’s final shipments.
Florida’s valencia orange forecast, at 27 million boxes, is 7 percent lower than November and 24 percent down from last season, according to the USDA.
Florida grapefruit production was estimated at 4.65 million (85-pound) boxes, unchanged from November but down 40 percent from last season Now three months after Hurricane Irma, the crop shipping forecast reductions come as the Florida citrus industry seeks federal emergency funding to support growers hurt by the hurricane.
“This second reduction underscores the dire need for federal disaster assistance,” Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus, said in a news release. “Florida citrus growers are making decisions on next season’s crop now and they need to know they have the support necessary to keep this American icon alive.”
In October, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services estimated that growers suffered more than $760 million in damages due to Hurricane Irma.
“This is exactly what we thought would happen as the true damage begins to rear its ugly head in the groves across Florida,” said Michael Sparks, executive vice president and CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual. “Unfortunately the situation is going to get worse before it gets better; we think the actual size of the 2017-2018 crop will not be known until the season is over and all the fruit is picked”
Sparks said the latest estimates are evidence that Congress needs to pass a citrus relief package so Florida growers can rebuild.
In the December crop production report, California and Texas orange production forecasts were carried forward from November and were not changed, the USDA said.
Florida’s total orange shipments are still slightly ahead of California. According to the December crop estimate, Florida will produce 2.07 million tons of oranges in 2017-18, slightly more than the 1.84 million tons of oranges forecast in California.