“I’m absolutely thrilled to see that number,” Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC) Executive Director Shannon Shepp said after the 2018-19 Florida orange crop was forecast at 79 million boxes on Oct. 11. The strong forecast was issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service.
“I have been looking for positive news for quite some time in this industry and I think this is going to be a real morale booster for growers, and it’s also going to give consumers who have been looking for the world’s best orange juice a little more opportunity to find it,” Shepp said.
The FDOC in recent years has cut back on traditional “legacy” programs it has used in the past. “But when you have a number like 79 million boxes of oranges, it automatically leads you to (asking) what are we doing for recovering citrus. What are we going to pull back out of the closet in terms of legacy programs like retail programs or food service programs” to help move more juice, Shepp said.
According to Shepp, the FDOC’s preliminary 2018-19 budget was based on an estimate of 60 million boxes of oranges, so the higher forecast, if realized, will give the agency more money to spend. Much of the FDOC budget is funded with an assessment on each box of fruit that Florida growers sell.
“One of the things we have to really focus on is our fresh industry … It (the forecast) gives us an opportunity to have a little bit more budget room to focus on those things that get cut by the wayside when there is no budget,” Shepp said.
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