The U.S. Department of Agriculture released an updated forecast for the citrus growing season.
Bill Curtis, a statistician for the USDA, issued the April update on a Thursday conference call.
Forecasts trended slightly downward through March for oranges, tangelos, and grapefruit, with state trends mirroring the citrus industry writ large.
The United States orange forecast for the 2019-2020 season is 5.19 million tons, down 1% from the previous forecast and down 4% from the revised 2018-2019 final utilization, claimed the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
The Florida orange forecast, by comparison, is at 70 million boxes (3.15 million tons), down 1% from the previous forecast and down 3% from last season’s revised final utilization.
In Florida, early, midseason, and Navel varieties are forecast at 30 million boxes (1.35 million tons), unchanged from the previous forecast but down 1% from last season’s final utilization, the NASS noted.
Florida Valencia oranges, forecast at 40 million boxes (1.8 million tons), a dip 2% from the previous forecast and 3% below last season’s revised final utilization.
However, what the harvest somewhat lacks in quantity, it makes up for in size. More oranges relative to the total harvest in 2020 are of bigger sizes than in the last two years.
Non-Valencia oranges largely have been harvested, while 44% of the Valencia rows have been.
With 98% of both red and white grapefruit varieties having been harvested, that forecast is ticked slightly downward from previous estimates also.
Drought is a concern.
“Drought intensified during March along and near the Gulf Coast, including Florida, amid summer-like heat and near-record to record-setting dryness. No measurable rain fell during the month in Florida locations such as Tampa and Lakeland. By March 29, Florida’s topsoil moisture was rated 65 percent very short to short, up from 20 percent just 4 weeks earlier,” asserted the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
The U.S.D.A. offers monthly guidance on the citrus industry, with Florida products central to the presentation.