Florida lost another 25,148 acres of citrus in the past year, or 5 percent of the crop’s acreage, according to the annual Commercial Citrus Inventory released on August 31. The number of acres dropped to 454,973 from 480,121 in 2016. The inventory was released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
“It turns out that our citrus inventory for Florida is down 5 percent from the recorded acreage last year,” says Candi Erick, Florida Agricultural Statistics Service administrator. “And that makes it the lowest in the series that began in 1966.”
As recently as 1996, Florida citrus acres totaled 857,687. Most growers and others blame the devastating HLB disease discovered in Florida in 2005 for the majority of the lost cropland.
“I was hoping to see a turnaround with more new plantings, but this year the gross loss for a one-year period was higher than it has been since we began having annual surveys beginning in 2009,” Erick says. The gross loss was 36,863 acres, only partially countered by 11,715 new acres planted in the past year. New plantings were up 16 percent from 2016, when 10,090 newly planted acres were recorded.
Orange acres, representing 89 percent of all citrus land, tumbled from 425,728 in 2016 to 405,832 this year. Just 19 years ago in 1998, Florida had 658,390 orange acres. Valencias account for 56 percent of the total orange acreage, non-Valencias represent 42 percent, and unidentified oranges are 2 percent.
Grapefruit acreage dropped from 40,316 to 36,084 in the past year. In 1994, Florida had 146,915 acres of grapefruit. Red grapefruit accounts for 76 percent of the total acres; 23 percent is white grapefruit. The Indian River area has 73 percent of the total grapefruit acres in Florida.
Specialty fruit acreage declined from 14,077 to 13,057.
Total Florida citrus acres have declined in every Commercial Citrus Inventory report since 1998.
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