The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is lowering its expectations for Florida’s 2020-21 orange production, dropping its estimate from 56 million boxes for the season to 54 million boxes.
The USDA updated its projections for the 2020-21 season during a Tuesday conference call, helmed by statistician Mark Hudson. That level of orange production would be a nearly 20% drop from the 2019-20 output of 67.3 million boxes.
USDA officials kept their forecast for Valencia oranges steady since last month’s update, sitting at around 34 million boxes. But projections for non-Valencia oranges dipped from an estimated 22 million boxes to just 20 million boxes during Tuesday’s update.
The newest forecast did see good news for Florida’s grapefruit production. December’s update anticipated 4.4 million boxes of grapefruit would be put out during the 2021-21 season. In Tuesday’s January update, the USDA bumped that projection up to 4.6 million boxes.
The group still projects around 700,000 boxes of white grapefruit will be produced. Projections for red grapefruit rose from 3.7 million boxes to 3.9 million boxes in the last month.
The forecast for tangerines and tangelos remained unchanged Tuesday, with an estimated 1.1 million boxes set for 2021-21.
That number actually increased from 2018-19 to 2019-20. In the 2018-19 season, 990,000 boxes of tangerines and tangelos were produced. Last season, that number sat a just over 1 million. If this year’s projection is on the mark, that would represent another year-to-year increase.
Grapefruit production has fluctuated more in recent years. This year’s projection of 4.6 million boxes would be a drop from last year’s mark of 4.85 million boxes. But the crop is still outpacing its 2018-19 level, when farmers produced just over 4.5 million boxes.
The situation for oranges is more dire in recent years. Florida pumped out nearly 72 million boxes of oranges in 2018-19. That number was down to 67.3 million boxes last year and could drop by more than 13 million boxes this year.
This year’s mark would be the lowest since the 2017-18 season, which saw just over 45 million boxes produced as citrus farmers recovered from Hurricane Irma’s impact.