Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Citrus Industry Remains 'In Crisis' despite Stable Forecast

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Citrus Industry Remains 'In Crisis' despite Stable Forecast

Article excerpt

Byline: Jim Turner News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE | Forecast numbers for Florida's struggling citrus industry held steady from December to January, the first month since Hurricane Irma that the figures didn't drop.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated Friday that Florida will grow enough oranges to fill 46 million 90pound boxes, the same as in December. Meanwhile, grapefruit production held at 4.65 million boxes for the third consecutive month.

While the monthtomonth numbers showed some stability, Florida Department of Citrus Executive Director Shannon Shepp said the industry - which, according to private estimates, was looking forward to producing enough oranges to fill 75 million boxes - is still facing the impacts from the September storm.

"Florida continues to face its lowest citrus forecast in more than 75 years," Shepp said. "While the temporary comfort of a stable forecast gives us a moment to breathe it doesn't hide the fact that this industry remains in crisis due to the impact of Hurricane Irma."

The seasonal forecast for oranges had fallen 15 percent since October's initial estimate, following the September hurricane that uprooted trees and left many groves in standing water for up to three weeks.

The storm came as the industry continued a decadelong battle against citrus greening disease, which is deadly to the fruit.

The January forecast stands 33 percent below production from the prior growing season, with Florida's growers on pace for the lowest harvest since 1945.

Growers are projected to produce enough Valencia oranges to fill about 27 million boxes, while the nonValencia variety is expected to fill about 19 million boxes, according to Friday's estimate. Navel orange production accounted for 500,000 of the nonValencia boxes.

Florida growers had annually filled more than 100 million boxes of citrus since 1950, with production topping 200 million boxes most years between 1971 and 2005. …

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