Even before measuring effects of Ian, USDA predicts lowest orange production since 1941-42 season

Florida Orange Groves Landscape
'We did not have the time to go back and get updated measurements, so it's based solely prior to Ian.'

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is giving a grim outlook of the 2022-23 orange production season, with its first projection of the season showing the lowest output since the 1941-42 season.

And that’s before analysts weigh the effects of Hurricane Ian rampaging through the state.

The USDA forecast projects just 28 million boxes of Florida oranges will be produced in the 2022-23 season. That includes 17 million boxes of Valencia oranges and 11 million boxes of non-Valencia oranges.

That is well below the inaugural forecast last season — already a yearslong low — which predicted 47 million boxes of oranges would be produced. That projection fell throughout the season, however, with the 2021-22 season ending with just over 41 million boxes being produced.

Even still, this year is expected to be even worse, hitting historically low levels.

“If realized, for all oranges, this will be the lowest crop since the 1942-1942 season, when we produced 27.2 (million). And we are at 28 million at this time,” Hudson explained.

Hudson also said that the size of non-Valencia oranges will be the smallest ever in a season if projections are realized this year.

The production numbers for grapefruit and tangerines and tangelos were also down. The USDA is projecting just 2 million boxes of grapefruit will be produced this season, with 1.8 million boxes of red grapefruit and 200,000 boxes of white grapefruit. For tangerines and tangelos, the agency pegged a production level of 700,000 boxes.

Those numbers could drop further once the agency analyzes Ian’s impact.

“We completed all our objective measurements prior to the arrival of Hurricane Ian, which arrived the 26th and 27th (of September),” said Mark Hudson, principal statistician for the USDA. “We did not have the time to go back and get updated measurements, so it’s based solely prior to Ian.”

Hudson said the agency’s December forecast would factor in the effect of the major storm, which landed on Florida’s west coast at near-Category 5 strength.

“The fruit-per-tree and the tree numbers are set. So when we go out in December, we’ll go back out to the samples and we’ll count the droppage and then we will size the fruit. And then from that point, we will do our objective measurements,” Hudson explained.

Despite the dismal report, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried tried to put a positive spin going forward.

“Today’s citrus forecast, surveyed prior to Hurricane Ian ravaging the Florida Citrus Industry’s 375,000 acres of commercial citrus, will be an invaluable baseline for growers, processors, packers and government in predicting additional crop loss,” Fried said in a written statement.

“As we move forward in the wake of this disaster, rest assured that I remain steadfast in my support of our Florida citrus growers, and my department remains committed to innovation in the face of the ongoing challenges of weather events like Ian, citrus greening and unfair trade practices.

“It is heartbreaking to see such an iconic Florida industry hurting right now. This year will be tough, no one is disputing that, but I believe in the tenacity and passion of our citrus industry professionals to come back stronger than ever. Side-by-side with our industry partners and stakeholders, I promise I will do everything in my power to secure all the available resources for Florida’s growers to recover from Hurricane Ian.”

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected]


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