The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a bleak estimate for the state’s citrus industry, saying that the 2014-2015 Florida orange crop will yield 96.4 million boxes of fruit, down from the 104 million boxes produced last year.
The estimate released Tuesday represents a decline of 60 percent since the peak of citrus production at 244 million boxes in 1997-98.
Florida agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam says it shows just how severely citrus greening has devastated Florida’s top fruit crop.
Greening is spread by a gnat-sized insect called the Asian citrus psyllid. Greening causes fruit to shrink and drop early and eventually kills the tree.
Putnam’s agency has requested $18 million to support research and to remove and replant diseased trees.
Florida’s citrus industry is worth $10.7 billion and supports 64,000 jobs.
Republished with permission of The Associated Press.