Florida’s struggling citrus industry is using nearly 50 percent fewer acres than 20 years ago, according to an annual end-of-season report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service Florida Field Office calculated 419,542 citrus acres in Florida as the 2019–2020 growing season ended in July. The acreage figure was down 3 percent from the last survey and off 49.6 percent from 2000, when citrus groves accounted for 832,275 acres, of which 665,529 were oranges. In the latest count, 382,393 acres were used for orange production.
During the recently finished season, the industry produced 67.3 million 90-pound boxes of oranges. That number was below the 71.85 million boxes filled during the 2018–2019 season. The state, however, saw upticks during the 2019–2020 season in grapefruit and specialty crops. Grapefruit production ended with 4.85 million boxes, an increase from 4.51 million boxes in the 2018–2019 season. Specialty citrus, primarily tangelos and tangerines, finished at 1.02 million boxes, up from the previous year’s total of 990,000 boxes.
The federal report found Polk County lost the most acreage, down 2,590 acres in the past year. DeSoto County maintained the most acreage with 67,044 acres.
Florida’s citrus industry has been in a downward spiral for two decades, as growers have faced pressure from residential and commercial development, imports, changing drinking habits and citrus greening disease. The state’s orange harvest in the past topped 200 million boxes, with a high of 244 million boxes in the 1997–1998 season. Grapefruit production through the mid-1990s was up to 50 million boxes a year.
Source: News Service of Florida