The USDA just released the season’s final citrus forecast for Florida. It’s one that’s been greeted with both praise and dismay, a bit like winning a skirmish but still facing a difficult war. The forecast increased slightly—as it has for the several past months, in contrast with what’s par for the course since citrus greening started really taking a toll on harvest totals—but the overall citrus harvests have fallen far from the height of Florida’s citrus industry in the 1990s. Take a look at the progression of this year’s citrus forecasts for Florida, compared with industry highs.
A Pre-HLB Citrus Industry
The Florida citrus industry saw its highest yields in the 1997-1998 year where 244 million boxes of citrus were harvested. Barring years with cold snaps in the spring, severe weather like hurricanes or other random factors that affected citrus growth, Florida’s annual citrus harvests had increased year after year. That is, until citrus greening, or HLB, arrived. Citrus greening was detected in a Florida citrus grove in Miami in 2005, and the citrus forecasts have fell since that time, year after year.
Recent Citrus Forecasts
Last year’s harvest—the 2014-2015 harvest year—saw 96.7 million boxes of oranges picked, packed and shipped. The beginning of this year’s season started out with an estimate of 80 million boxes, which was low enough on its own. However, the forecast fell steeply in December to 69 million boxes. It was a new low point for the industry.
Things started to pick up when the forecasts released by the USDA started to inch up every month. From March to July, the citrus forecast rose in dribs and drabs, but any increase is good news. The USDA just released the season’s last forecast on July 12th; the season saw 81.5 million boxes of oranges. It’s a decline of 70 percent from the height of the 1997-1998 harvest.
There are many promising treatments and options for the future. Hopefully we will start to see the citrus harvest totals increase year-to-year for good.