TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Florida citrus forecast is down more than half versus the year before, according to a new report from the United States Department of Agriculture.
Florida orange production lost about 10 million boxes of oranges for the new season, owed mostly to two hurricanes back to back. It’s the lowest level in the state since 1935.
The previous USDA forecast was at an already 80-year low before Hurricane Ian. Following both Ian and Hurricane Nicole hitting the state, the forecast dropped even further, putting overall expectations 56% lower than in 2021.
In the latest forecast, published Friday, Florida’s citrus contribution was down further, to the tune of millions of fruits. Each box of oranges weighs roughly 90 pounds. While all Florida orange production was reported to be 29% lower than the October forecast, grapefruit production also fell 10%, and tangerine and tangelo production was down 14%.
Shortly after Hurricane Ian, the impact on state orange groves was yet to be determined. Now, months and another hurricane later, the impact is comparatively large.
Previous estimates put Florida’s forecast at its lowest since 1942, with just 28 million boxes of oranges expected to come from the state. Following Ian and Nicole, the USDA put that number closer to 18 million, making it the lowest production since the 1935 to 1936 season, where there were only 15.9 million boxes of oranges produced.
Focusing on the latest forecast, the Florida Department of Citrus said the December report was “the first to reflect the impact of Hurricane Ian on the Florida Citrus industry.”
“Florida citrus growers’ commitment to providing high-quality Florida Orange Juice remains strong as they work tirelessly to address the impacts of severe weather events and Citrus greening. The December crop forecast reflects the very real challenges that Hurricane Ian, Hurricane Nicole, and the ongoing impacts of Citrus greening have created for growers across the state, but we remain hopeful and motivated to secure the future of our industry,” Shannon Shepp, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Citrus, said.
Previous loss estimates for Florida’s agriculture industry after Ian pegged a total of between $1.1 billion to $1.8 billion. The Florida Department of Agriculture put estimates down by sector.
|Citrus||$416,905,273 to $675,529,404|
|Fruits and Vegetables||$153,722,214 to $230,583,321|
|Field Crops||$86,434,127 to $160,358,621|
|Horticultural Crops||$153,531,344 to $297,047,800|
|Animal and Animal Products||$337,385,791 to $492,051,186|
|Total||$1,180,714,303 to $1,888,305,886|
In terms of what this means for Florida, state representatives Scott Franklin (R-FL15) and Darren Soto (D-FL09) wrote to Congress along with 15 other Florida delegates to request disaster relief for the state’s citrus industry.
“Hurricane Ian impacted 375,302 acres of Florida citrus when it made landfall in October, totaling more than 90 percent of all citrus production in the state. Growers suffered a variety of damage including fruit loss, foliage loss, standing water, and toppled trees,” the letter reads. “The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services estimated losses to citrus production from Hurricane Ian will be between $416 million to $675 million.”
However, those numbers, according to the representatives, do not include extra damage caused by Hurricane Nicole making landfall. To help the state’s industry, the Florida congressmen asked for supplemental disaster aid.