The bad news is that severe weather warnings caused the annual citrus crop luncheon to be cancelled at Putnam Ranch in Zolfo Springs, Florida. The good news is that the Florida citrus crop forecast is up in all categories.
Bill Curtis, agricultural statistics administrator with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, presented the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) first citrus crop forecast of the season on Oct. 12 in a live AgNet Media broadcast.
Kyle Story, a citrus grower and current president of Florida Citrus Mutual, participated in the broadcast. He echoed the positive attitude many growers are reporting. “We are very optimistic. We have seen these therapies that we’ve deployed over the last 10 months really take hold in the trees,” he said. “We are seeing a great flush of new leaves. And we are seeing tree health as good as we’ve seen in the past five or six years for this time of year.
“Just this morning, I got some really great news on fruit size. The production side of this industry takes this to heart. They have not been excited about a lot of things in a long time. We’ve seen (improved Brix) in our early runs of fresh fruit and we’ve seen it in the USDA’s test results last month. What we were expecting with these new therapies, we are seeing it come into real life.”
The Florida orange forecast, at 20.5 million boxes, is up 30% from last season.
Florida non-Valencias are forecast at 7.5 million boxes, up 22% from the 2022–23 season. The estimated number of bearing trees (without navels) is 13.3 million, down 9% from the previous season. The estimated fruit per tree is 342, a decrease of 144 pieces from last season and the lowest in a series dating back to the 1964–65 season. Projected fruit size is below the minimum, requiring an estimated 337 pieces of fruit to fill a 90-pound box. At 40%, projected droppage is above average.
The Florida Valencia orange forecast, at 13 million boxes, is 35% higher than last season. The estimated number of bearing trees is 24.9 million, down 5% from the previous season. The estimated fruit per tree is 279, a decrease of 47 pieces from last season and the lowest since the 1964–65 season. Projected fruit size is below the minimum, requiring an estimated 274 pieces of fruit to fill a 90-pound box. Projected droppage is above average at 40%.
Grapefruit production in Florida is expected to increase 5%. Red varieties are forecast at 1.65 million boxes (up from 1.56 million boxes last season), and white varieties are holding steady at 250,000 boxes.
Florida’s tangerine and tangelo production is projected to be up by 4%, going from 480,000 boxes last season to 500,000 boxes this season.
The forecast for California oranges is also up, at 44.5 million boxes compared to last season’s 43.2 million boxes. California non-Valencias are expected at 37 million boxes and Valencias at 7.5 million boxes.
California grapefruit is forecast down from 4 million boxes last year to 3.5 million boxes this year. The state’s lemon production also dipped, from 26.5 million boxes to 23 million boxes. California’s tangerine and tangelos are estimated at 23 million boxes, down slightly from last year’s 23.7 million boxes.
TEXAS AND ARIZONA
The Texas orange forecast, at 800,000 boxes, is down substantially from 1.13 million boxes in 2022–23.
Texas grapefruit production is expected to decrease just slightly from 2.25 million boxes last season to 2.2 million boxes this season.
Arizona lemon production is forecast at 1.5 million boxes, up from 1.4 million boxes.
See the full USDA citrus crop forecast report here.
The next update to the citrus crop forecast will be on Dec. 8 at approximately 12:00 p.m. on the Citrus Industry website.