A bit of weight was lifted off of Florida citrus growers’ shoulders after hearing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s initial 2016–17 Florida citrus crop forecast that calls for 70 million boxes of oranges.
Citrus industry members gathered at Florida Citrus Mutual’s Political Action Committee Clay Shoot and Crop Estimate Luncheon to hear the live forecast from Southeast AgNet. The event, sponsored by several citrus associations and companies, was held at Baxter Troutman’s Dark Hammock Legacy Ranch near Lake Placid.
Prior to the release of the forecast, Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Dennis Ross briefly addressed the crowd to express their support of the citrus industry.
USDA’s Candi Erick delivered the forecast numbers, and the common reaction among those in attendance was pleasant surprise, as many expected the numbers to be lower. Shortly after the live forecast ended, a few attendees shared their reaction to the forecast.
Ray Royce, executive director of Highlands County Citrus Growers Association, says that he was “pleasantly surprised that the forecast was as high as it was.” He also suspects that at the end of the season, the total will be even higher than the initial estimate. When asked about what advice he would give to Florida growers, he said, “I would encourage growers to stay in touch with Florida Citrus Mutual, the regional associations, and their University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension offices to see what kind of informational sessions are out there that might be of benefit to them.”
Larry Black, of the Peace River Valley Packing Company, says that the orange forecast came in slightly higher than his estimate of 68.5 million boxes, which he considers to be great news. “The industry truly needs to stabilize for us to find a trough in this HLB battle. And I think we saw a sign of that today,” he says. Black adds that postbloom fruit drop has been an issue this season, which he attributes to the wet winter, but he is optimistic about the new groves he’s bringing into production and says optimism is building in the industry.
Mark Wheeler, of Wheeler Farms, was predicting 60 million boxes of oranges prior to hearing the forecast. He is fairly optimistic that all of the extra rain recently received has really helped his grove and is encouraged by the way the oranges look. “It’s unfortunate to see that the trend of downward continues, but 70 million boxes is a lot better than some of the private estimates. So we are encouraged and we will get out there, and get after it, and work with what we have.”
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