The latest citrus forecast issued by the USDA was released October 12th, and it included a few surprises. Make no mistake, the Florida citrus industry needs help, and the initial citrus forecast showed that. However, it did offer a few rays of hope for the future of the Florida citrus industry.
USDA’s Initial Citrus Forecast
Mid-day on October 12th saw the release of the USDA’s first citrus forecast of the 2016-17 season. It was released by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) in conjunction with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). It forecast Florida’s total citrus harvest for 2016-17 to be 70 million boxes of oranges. The breakdown was as follows:
- Non-Valencia oranges are forecast at 34 million boxes
- Valencia oranges were forecast at 36 million boxes
- Grapefruit forecast is 9.6 million boxes
- Tangerines and tangelos, combined, are forecast at 1.65 million boxes
The forecast represents a decrease of 14 percent compared with last year’s total harvest of 81.5 million boxes. In that season, the initial harvest was 80 million boxes, and three consecutive increases in the USDA’s monthly citrus forecast certainly gave a boost to the industry.
Hope Spring Eternal
While the first citrus forecast was 14 percent lower than last year’s totals, most growers were pleasantly surprised with the forecast, according to an article on CitrusIndustry.net. The piece explained that most growers were expecting the first forecast to be much lower, so the higher forecast was a bonus. Earlier in the year, Kissimmee-based citrus consultant Elizabeth Steger forecast 60.5 million boxes of citrus, and the scourge of postbloom fruit drop has added further worries that the first forecast would be very low.
Growers have a host of other reasons to be optimistic. Ray Royce, executive director of Highlands County Citrus Growers Association, was named in the Citrus Industry article as saying that he suspects that the total will be even higher at the end of the season than the initial estimate.
Bright points, such as a recent encouraging study on of the bactericide oxytetracycline’s ability to combat the bacteria that causes citrus greening, as well as a number of grower incentive programs, could all be behind Royce’s optimism, as well as that of Florida’s citrus industry.