Ray Royce, executive director of Highlands County Citrus Growers Association, was surprised that the initial Florida orange forecast for the 2021-22 season was only 47 million boxes. “I had hoped we’d be a lot closer to what our final numbers were from last year,” he said. Actual production in 2020-21 was 52.8 million boxes.
The crop forecast was issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) on Oct. 12.
“I’m hoping that the numbers in Highlands County are a little stronger for the 15-20% of the industry that we represent,” Royce said. He added that he knows many groves are going out of production in other parts of the state.
Royce noted that NASS indicated there was smaller fruit size and fewer fruit per tree for most oranges so far this season. “My hope is that we will see good weather for the next several months, and maybe this fruit will go ahead and size up. Those growers that have made significant investments in their properties may have some individually good crops if we don’t have a great crop overall for the state,” he said.
Many growers in Highlands County have discussed the use of gibberellic acid, which researchers say can increase fruit yields, Royce said. “We’re going to take advantage of every tool there is to go ahead and try to decrease the drop rate,” he added.
Asked about tree condition, Royce said groves in which growers have made “significant investments in proactively taking care of their groves … look in pretty good shape.”
Royce was interviewed by Citrus Industry magazine editor Tacy Callies soon after the initial forecast was released.
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