The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has reduced its overall projections for Florida orange and grapefruit production in its newly released March forecast for the full 2021-22 season.
The newest forecast, released Wednesday, predicts Florida will produce 41.2 million boxes of oranges this season. That’s down from a total of 43.5 million boxes in February’s projection. The March numbers show an expected 3.9 million boxes of grapefruit, down from 4.1 million in February.
The USDA’s projected number for tangerines and tangelos remained the same month to month, at 800,000 boxes.
Digging deeper into the numbers, USDA analysts actually increased their expected output for Florida non-Valencia oranges month to month. Last month’s projections stay at 17.5 million boxes, while the March forecast raised that number to 18.2 million boxes.
But that was paired with a drop of 3 million boxes for Valencia orange production. The USDA reduced its projections from 26 million boxes last month to just 23 million in the March forecast.
Red and white grapefruit each saw a reduction of 100,000 boxes in the month-to-month projections. Expected red grapefruit output dropped from 3.3 million in February to 3.2 million in March, while white grapefruit went from 800,000 boxes to 700,000.
The USDA’s initial forecast for the 2021-22 production season, released in October, already showed a grim outlook for Florida’s citrus production. Those initial season numbers were the lowest in decades, and have mostly dropped since.
One exception is projected grapefruit production. It’s actually up since those initial October estimates, rising from 3.8 million boxes to 3.9 million.
But estimated orange production is down significantly, from 47 million boxes to 41.2 million boxes. The projections for tangerines and tangelos also have dropped from 900,000 boxes to 800,000.
Last year’s final citrus output in Florida also fell short of initial season projections.
The 2021-22 season’s final numbers likely won’t reach the low levels seen during the 2017-18 season — due to impacts from Hurricane Irma — but they are still well short of the rebound some experts hoped for this year.