TALLAHASSEE — The forecast for Florida’s orange crop has dropped 29 percent after Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole, putting the citrus industry on a path toward its lowest production since the Great Depression.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday released a report that said Florida is expected to produce 20 million boxes of oranges during the current growing season, down from a previous forecast of 28 million boxes. Projections also dropped 10 percent for grapefruit production and 14 percent for specialty fruits.
he previous forecast was issued in October as the season started. It did not take into account the Category 4 Hurricane Ian, which made landfall Sept. 28 in Southwest Florida and caused large numbers of uprooted trees and downed fruit in citrus-growing areas such as Collier, Lee, DeSoto, Hardee and Polk counties.
Even before Ian, the industry expected a decrease in production, with surveys showing smaller fruit and fewer oranges per tree. Growers have long faced pressures from deadly citrus-greening disease and development.
Florida Citrus Mutual CEO Matt Joyner issued a statement Friday that offered hope for dealing with issues such as citrus greening.
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