The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is lowering its projection for Florida’s orange output, according to its February forecast released Wednesday.
First, the good news: the USDA’s projection for grapefruit, tangerine and tangelo production remained steady from last month’s projection. Analysts still see Florida producing 4.1 million boxes of grapefruit — 3.3 million boxes of red grapefruit and 800,000 boxes of white grapefruit — as well as 800,000 boxes of tangerines and tangelos.
The USDA also predicts Florida will produce 17.5 million boxes of non-Valencia oranges, which is in line with its January forecast. But the agency has dropped its estimate for Valencia orange production from 27 million boxes to 26 million boxes.
While most other projections remain consistent from January to February, those estimates still remain near all-time lows for the industry, part of a decades-long decline in Florida’s citrus production capabilities.
The Department of Citrus, which has acknowledged the “disappointment” of the low forecasts in previous statements, tried striking a more resilient tone Wednesday in response to the updated numbers.
“The grit and determination of Florida citrus growers does not waver. They remain committed, in the face of known and unknown challenges, to providing high-quality and great-tasting Florida citrus and Florida orange juice to all who seek it out,” said Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus.
“As consumers continue to turn to Florida orange juice for its health benefits at a higher rate than in many previous years, growers are reinvesting and replanting to ensure this iconic beverage can be enjoyed for generations to come.”
Last year’s final citrus output in Florida fell below where analysts had projected it to land in late 2020. While the 2021-22 season’s final numbers likely won’t reach the low levels seen in the 2017-18 season — due to impacts from Hurricane Irma — they are still falling well short of the rebound some experts hoped for this year.