Tom Mitchell of Riverfront Packing Company in Vero Beach, who serves as Florida Citrus Mutual president, discusses the crop forecast for Florida citrus. The Florida forecast for 79 million boxes of oranges and 6.7 million boxes of grapefruit was issued Oct. 11 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
“I’m primarily a fresh grapefruit grower,” Mitchell says, adding that he relies on the opinion of others regarding the orange forecast. “A lot of people that I spoke to felt that the (orange) number might be slightly high. With grapefruit, I definitely felt like the number was high, and it took me by surprise. We’re still dealing with a multi-year storm event over where we’re at, and the people in the southwest are still recovering from the Irma damage that they received last season.”
Turning to grapefruit tree health, Mitchell points out that Hurricane Irma in September 2017 dumped much water on Florida’s east coast groves. “It took a lot of time for that water to get off of those trees, and so we feel like it might have multi-year effects for our crop, unfortunately,” Mitchell says. “We lost quite a bit of leaves, and I think a lot of energy from the tree was used to regrow the tree instead of growing fruit. So we are still optimistic about the future, but we are a little bit concerned as far as how long those effects might be with the damage we received in Irma.”
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