The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is adjusting its 2021-22 citrus forecast, revising down its orange production forecast while increasing its estimate for the number of grapefruits produced.
Both changes, announced Thursday, are slight. The shifts come after November’s forecast made no changes to the USDA’s original estimates from October.
Analysts say Florida will produce 28 million boxes of Valencia oranges during the 2021-22 season. That projection has not changed. But forecasters now say Florida will produce 18 million boxes of non-Valencia oranges, down from a projection of 19 million boxes in October and November.
That drops Florida’s projected orange production overall from 47 million boxes of oranges to 46 million.
Though the reduction is slight, it comes amid a years-long slide in those projections. This year’s starting forecast was already the lowest in at least 25 years for both oranges and grapefruit, signaling a decline in optimism for Florida’s citrus output.
This year will likely not be the worst in terms of final production, however. During the 2017-18 season, Florida produced fewer than 19 million boxes of oranges and 3.9 million boxes of grapefruit due to impacts from Hurricane Irma.
The USDA slightly upped its estimate on grapefruit production. The agency now predicts Florida will produce 3.3 million boxes of red grapefruit during the 2021-22 season, up from a projection of 3.2 million boxes in October and November. Analysts say Florida will produce 800,000 boxes of white grapefruit, up from an initial estimate of 600,000.
That increases Florida’s estimated total grapefruit production from 3.8 million boxes to 4.1 million boxes.
The organization’s projection for tangerine and tangelo production remained unchanged in December, sitting at 900,000 boxes during the 2021-22 season.
Department of Citrus Executive Director Shannon Shepp released a statement tying the December forecast to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ budget proposal, also released Thursday.
“Today’s forecast underscores why support from leadership and policymakers is so important. This is an industry that continues to fight and remains a vital component of the state’s economy,” Shepp said. “We are grateful Gov. DeSantis recognizes this and has included support for the Florida citrus industry in his budget proposal.”