Oct 15, 2021 - News

Florida citrus production continues to slide

Florida all-citrus production
Data: U.S. Department of Agriculture; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

Florida's citrus crop is on pace to shrink again next year to its lowest total since 1945, if you don't count the destruction Hurricane Irma caused in 2017 to the state's already-depleted groves.

Driving the news: The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its initial citrus crop forecast for the 2021-22 season: 47 million boxes of Florida oranges, down 11% from last season's 52.8 million.

Of note: Fruit per tree was the lowest on record for both non-Valencia and Valencia oranges since the first year this number was collected, 1964-1965.

  • Huanglongbingor citrus greening — is to blame. The bacteria has infected 90% of the state's groves.
  • Production has declined steadily since 2003, the season before citrus greening emerged as a threat to the $9 billion industry.

Why it matters: What is Florida without oranges? Citrus has been farmed commercially here since the 1800s due to the state's sandy soil and climate, and the industry employs nearly 76,000 Floridians.

Yes, but: After a peak production of 244 million boxes of all citrus during the 1997-98 season, production has been in decline for more than 20 years. Thousands of citrus farmers have quit. Factories for processed juice have shut down.

The intrigue: Production of specialty citrus like tangerines and tangelos is expected to be up slightly this season with 900,000 boxes forecasted.

What they’re saying: "We remain committed to supporting our citrus producers with research, technology, and techniques to fight the spread of citrus greening," Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said in a statement.

What to watch: Fried said she has requested $15.6 million in the state's next budget to support citrus production, health and research.


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