The 2020–21 orange crop forecast for the São Paulo and West-Southwest Minas Gerais citrus belt in Brazil is 269.36 million boxes. The updated forecast was published Dec. 10 by Fundecitrus and its cooperators. The decrease of 17.36 million boxes represents a 6 percent decline in crop size from the September forecast update.
ADVERSE WEATHER CONDITIONS
Expected production was significantly hindered by late rainfall in the spring and intense heat. Should this new projection hold true until harvest ends, it will result in the largest crop loss for Brazil’s citrus belt since the beginning of the historical series in 1988–89 and a decline of 30.36 percent in comparison to the previous crop season.
A poor outlook for rainfall was expected in 2020 due to the possibility of the climate event La Niña forming, which was officially confirmed in September. However, other phenomena, such as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, simultaneously contributed to less rainfall and increased temperatures that reached unprecedented levels in several regions of the citrus belt. Consequently, the effects on groves resulting from adverse weather conditions this year were much worse as compared to those observed during the last La Niña, between November 2017 and April 2018.
Monthly maximum average temperatures in the citrus belt were above normal throughout 2020, with the exception of February and August. Damage caused by adverse weather varied from region to region or even from plot to plot within the same farm. Trees that were already debilitated by citrus greening disease were more susceptible to the effects of the drought, produced smaller oranges and had more fruit drop.
In many groves, the long-lasting drought and the intense heat caused irreversible damage. More drastic cases were observed in some non-irrigated plots, especially in the North, Northwest and Central sectors, where all or almost all trees died.
Due to adverse weather conditions and to a larger amount of fruit from the second bloom in this crop, harvest is at a much slower pace this season. Field survey data shows that harvest reached 58 percent of the production in November. At the same time last year, that rate was 74 percent.
SMALLER FRUIT SIZE
Taking all varieties into account, average fruit size projected in May was 257 fruit to fill a 40.8-kilogram box, equivalent to oranges with an average weight of 159 grams. The fruit size estimate for December has been updated to 261 fruits per box, which means fruit should be even smaller, with a weight of 156 grams. If that weight is confirmed, oranges will be harvested at a weight that is 8 percent lower than the last five crop seasons.
INCREASED FRUIT DROP
The projected fruit drop rate rose from 17.3 to 21.1 percent, reaching its highest level since the survey started in 2015. All varieties, except for Valencia Americana, Seleta and Pineapple, have presented higher fruit drop rates than initially projected. The fruit drop rate for Pera Rio increased the most, from 16.5 to 22.2 percent. Valencia and Valencia Folha Murcha should present the highest fruit drop rate, at 24.7 percent.
See the full forecast report here.