The U.S. Department of Agriculture is sticking by its original estimate that 74 million boxes of oranges will be produced in Florida during the 2019-20 season.
The USDA made the estimate in October, when the first 2019-20 projections were announced. Tuesday, the agency issued its December update, which left those numbers unchanged.
Of those 74 million boxes, 32 million are projected to be non-Valencia oranges. Another 42 million boxes of Valencia oranges are projected to be produced.
Mark Hudson, who works as a statistician for the USDA, issued the December update in a Tuesday conference call.
The agency also put out projections on production of grapefruit as well as tangerines and tangelos.
The tangerine and tangelos estimate also remains unchanged from those October numbers, with 1.05 million boxes expected to be produced.
But the USDA’s grapefruit numbers are up from October. The Tuesday call pegged the 2019-20 season to yield 4.9 million boxes of grapefruit, up from 4.6 million boxes originally.
The December update showed the USDA estimating 4.1 million boxes of red grapefruit will be produced, along with another 800,000 boxes of white grapefruit. Those estimates are up from 3.9 million boxes and 700,000 boxes, respectively.
The Tuesday revision was announced on the same day that Mike Sparks of Florida Citrus Mutual testified in front of the Senate Agriculture Committee regarding some of the hardships of the orange industry in recent years.
He detailed some of the struggles caused by invasive pests and diseases, falling orange juice consumption, and the impact of Hurricane Irma in 2017.
That storm temporarily devastated the industry, as the 2017-18 season saw just over 45 million boxes of oranges produced. But Sparks said the storm is just one part of the problem.
“All of these issues have put downward pressure on growers’ returns,” Sparks said.
“So we’re at the crossroads and we have to look for strategic partners on the federal level. And we’re so appreciative of the partnerships that we’ve had with the state in the past.”
The 2018-19 season did see a rebound, with 71.7 million boxes of oranges harvested. But those numbers are still down from the 2000s and early 2010s, which saw production routinely doubling that number.