Citrus harvest projection has Florida growers optimistic
Florida citrus growers are expected to harvest nearly 20 million boxes of oranges this year.

Florida orange juice China
A promised increase in state funding to help citrus growers adds to upbeat outlook.

The citrus crop harvest projection shows a drop in some production this year. But the citrus industry is generally upbeat.

The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) citrus harvest outlook shows a fairly stable industry. The projection calls for citrus growers to harvest about 18.8 million boxes of oranges in the 2023-24 harvest season in Florida alone. Another 2 million boxes of grapefruit will likely be harvested in Florida, and 500,000 boxes of tangerines and tangelos are projected to be plucked from trees.

Florida Citrus Mutual officials acknowledged that the harvest will be down from the previous months. But representatives of the citrus farming advocacy organization say they’re bullish on the industry.

“While this month’s USDA citrus forecast shows a dip in production, optimism blooms among Florida citrus growers,” said Matt Joyner, CEO at Florida Citrus Mutual. “Growers are witnessing improved tree health and ‘snow white’ orange blossoms in the groves — a tell-tale sign that there’s hope for Florida’s citrus industry to make its great American comeback.”

That comeback would have a long way to go to meet the peak of Florida’s citrus harvest in the 1997-98 harvest season, when there were 244 million boxes of oranges harvested. Florida as recently as two years ago dominated all other citrus-producing states.

But Florida, after years of domination, fell below California in citrus production in the 2021-22 harvest season. California more than doubles Florida’s orange production in output as the West Coast is expected to produce 46 million boxes of oranges this year.

Florida citrus growers are optimistic, however, because there is promised hope on the way from the Sunshine State’s government. In March, the Legislature approved $47 million in assistance for the citrus industry in the state as part of Florida’s annual budget. Some $18 million of that funding is earmarked for citrus treatment and growing therapies.

Gov. Ron DeSantis still must approve the spending plan that would take effect July 1.

Citrus growers have already developed some disease-resistant strains of citrus trees along with new treatment methods that have helped the industry bounce back to a degree. Florida Citrus Mutual officials say that’s already helped to improve the health of citrus trees across the state leading to better harvests.

Drew Dixon

Drew Dixon is a journalist of 40 years who has reported in print and broadcast throughout Florida, starting in Ohio in the 1980s. He is also an adjunct professor of philosophy and ethics at three colleges, Jacksonville University, University of North Florida and Florida State College at Jacksonville. You can reach him at [email protected].


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