The 2020-21 citrus growing season fell short of earlier expectations, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said Monday that Florida growers produced 52.8 million boxes of oranges.
The original projection for the season — made back in October — pegged Florida’s yearly production at around 57 million boxes. As winter progressed, those projections steadily dropped. The yearly yield fell more than 4 million boxes short of that original estimate.
The 2020-21 yield is down nearly 22% from the previous year, when 67.4 million boxes were produced in the 2019-20 season. That number was also a drop from the 2018-19 season, when 71.85 million boxes were produced.
This year’s mark is the lowest since the 2017-18 season, which saw just over 45 million boxes produced as citrus farmers recovered from Hurricane Irma’s impact.
Production of non-Valencia oranges dropped by more than 23% from the 2019-20 season to the 2020-21 season. Production of Valencia oranges dropped by just under 21% in the same span.
Early season projections for grapefruit production and tangerine and tangelo production were also overly optimistic. After predicting 4.5 million boxes of grapefruit in October, Florida ended the 2020-21 season with just 4.1 million boxes. That’s also the lowest mark since 2017-18, when the state produced fewer than 3.9 million boxes.
Florida growers sent out just 890,000 boxes of tangerines and tangelos. That’s down from 1.02 million boxes last year and 990,000 boxes in the 2018-19 season. October’s projection estimated the state would hit 1.1 million boxes this year.
Florida Citrus Commission Chairman Steve Johnson argued next season would see a rebound for the industry, according to a statement in a News Service of Florida report.
“Next season’s crop is on the trees, and the conditions in the groves are encouraging,” Johnson said. “With the support of state leaders who believe in Florida Citrus and recognize the important role this industry plays in our state, we head into the new season optimistic about the future.”
The first 2021-22 estimates will be released in early October.