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Florida citrus crop forecast holds hope, despite drop

Posted at 10:37 PM, Feb 09, 2024

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — When you think about Florida, one thing that always comes to mind is Florida citrus.

Since its peak in 1998, the citrus industry has been in decline with production roughly 8% of what was during its peak.

And in just in the last year, the industry was hit with a freeze followed by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. That is in addition to the current HLB Citrus Greening epidemic. But despite these recent setbacks citrus production is still looking stronger than last year.

Matt Joyner, the CEO of Citrus Mutual, says the dip came from weaker than expected early harvest, but the late harvest forecasted to be strong.

“I still think we are on a good path for our recovery year,” said Joyner. “We are still projected to be up quite a bit from last year, a hurricane year. So, you know we are going to persevere through the season. Tree health continues to look good. Weather conditions have been good. No hurricanes. No freezes, knock on wood, thus far. So, we are optimistic about what the rest of the season holds.”

Joyner says it typically takes citrus trees 3 years to fully recover from a hurricane. With continued improving tree health and better treatments for greening, Joyner is seeing promising signs.

The current forecast from USDA calls for 19.8 million boxes of oranges with an additional 2.4 million boxes of grapefruit and 550-thousand boxes of tangerines and tangelos.