In the worst-case scenario projected by economists Wednesday, Florida orange production could plummet to 27 million boxes in 10 years. Florida orange production last season was 81.5 million boxes. As recently as the 2003-04 season, Florida produced 242 million boxes of oranges. Production declines are primarily caused by HLB, the deadly disease first discovered in Florida in 2005.
But the worst case is not necessarily what the economists who spoke to the Florida Citrus Commission expect. Other projections ranged from 77 million boxes to 85 million boxes, depending on the industry’s tree replanting rate. The 77-million-box projection is based on the current rate of 50 percent of lost trees being replanted. The 85-million-box projection is based on a 125 percent replacement level. The report was written by University of Florida economist and professor emeritus Tom Spreen and Florida Department of Citrus economist Marisa Zansler.
Spreen summarizes the report in this interview. He says the worst-case scenario of 27 million boxes in the 2026-27 season is based on extrapolating the severe yield reductions experienced in recent seasons. “Under that scenario, the picture is very bleak,” Spreen says. He explains the assumption in that case is that “the measures that growers are taking to mitigate HLB will be unsuccessful and the disease will continue to run its course.”
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