The latest federal report on oranges and grapefruits is sour news for the industry.
Florida citrus and agriculture officials, even in the face of dispiriting challenges, continue to look at the industry’s predicament in a glass half-full kind of way.
The latest sour news: the May forecast from the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed a 1% drop from the April outlook in orange and grapefruit output, according to a statement from the Florida Department of Citrus. The state’s growers are now on pace to fill 44.95 million 90-pound boxes of oranges — off 34.7% from the prior growing season, according to the News Service of Florida. That would be the lowest production of oranges in Florida since the 1942-1943 season.
The total amount of harvested grapefruit, 3.95 million boxes for the season, meanwhile, has been squeezed to nearly a 100-year low: Florida growers in 1918-1919 produced 3.5 million boxes of grapefruit, the news service reports, and a year later the number hit 5.9 million boxes. The current grapefruit tally is down from 7.76 million boxes last season, according to citrus department data.
“With everything Florida citrus growers have gone through this year, we consider today’s forecast to be relatively stable and not unexpected,” Florida Department of Citrus Executive Director Shannon Shepp says in a statement, issued May 10. “This is an industry choosing to remain optimistic about the future. And part of that optimism comes from the support we’ve received from policy makers, industry and consumers.”
One source of the optimism comes in forthcoming potential federal disaster relief in response to the roughly $760 million in damages caused by Hurricane Irma. Florida, for example, is expected to receive $340 million in grants from a $2.36-billion federally approved disaster-relief package.