CAPE CORAL, Fla. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture released their updated December forecast for the citrus crop harvest season on Friday. The forecast estimates the production of 20.5 million boxes of oranges, 2.4 million boxes of grapefruit and 550,000 boxes of tangerines and tangelos.
"Tree health looks really good. Fruit drop has been less thus far,” said Matt Joyer, CEO of Citrus Mutual. “Some encouraging signs that make us believe we are on the right path, the road to recovery."
The current production estimates call for over 5 million more boxes of oranges compared to last year. Matt Joyer, the CEO of Citrus Mutual, says this is linked improved tree health with new treatments for citrus greening disease, and the recovery from Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. But that is still only about 8.5% of where the industry was during its peak in the last 90s. This past week, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the inclusion of more than $20 million in the state budget for the fiscal year 2024-2025 for citrus research and the citrus health response program. That will be used to help researchers develop new varieties of citrus that could be more resistant to greening.
"As we begin this recovery, to have these research dollars to continue to be available for the University of Florida and USDA labs and others to continue to do the good work that they are doing is going to help expiate this recovery," said Joyer.
Joyer believes researchers are getting closer to developing resistant trees, but in the meantime the current treatments appear to be working.
Still, Joyer is wary of any potential freezes that could set them back. He says farmers would prefer a mild winter with a few cool ,not cold spells to help sweeten up the fruit.